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Where Has All The Money Gone, Part II – Finance Sector

In Part I we saw that labor’s earnings have lagged far behind GDP growth.  (More on earnings stagnation here) Meanwhile, corporate profits have grown at a rate that, until recently, increased over time, and they are now at a historically high fraction of GDP.
Here is a specific look at the Finance Sector. The graph shows finance sector profits as a percentage of total corporate profits – all after tax.

 
That’s a pretty impressive sweep up over time. I threw some best fit curves through the whole data set, and also though the peaks and valleys. Curves through the extremes are exponential.

Along with the increased percentage we get a dramatic increase in the data spread.

When lines jump around a lot, you can sometimes get clarification by looking at a long average. I tried that here with a 13 year average.

A long average filters out the hash, and reveals the underlying trend. Or, I should say, trends, since there are two, with a sharp break at the beginning of 1986. A best-fit least squares trend line on the data through ’85 is a near-perfect match to the average line, which barely even wiggles. We see a bit more action in the post-85 segment, but the new trend is still very clear, indeed. The earlier trend line in green is now the lower channel support line.

The finance sector has captured an increasing fraction of corporate profits, which have been growing at an increasing rate since WWII.  And the growth rates are greatest when the economy is doing the worst.  Take another look at the first graph.  The correlation of finance sector profit peaks with recessions is close to perfect.  Peaks are in Q2-1949, Q3-1952, Q4-1953, Q1-1958, Q1-1961, Q4-1970,  Q1-1986, Q1-1991, Q4-2001.  The peak in 1986 is the only one that does not correspond to a recession.

The finance sector provides a vital function.  It is there to facilitate and enable the wheels of industry to turn.  But policy matters.  What has happened in the age of deregulation and lax taxation is that the finance sector has come to dominate the economy.  This is madness. And here is your Great Stagnation, folks.

Beyond the point of supplying necessary financing for businesses and mortgages, financial manoeuvrings – speculation in particular, and most especially so with sophisticated derivatives that nobody knows how to rationally evaluate – become rent seeking.  This is a massive misallocation of resources, diverting capital from real investment into totally non-value-added financial tail chasing.

And I’m not the only who thinks so.  Here, Paul Krugman calling the whole operation A Giant Scam, quotes Andrew Haldane, Executive Director, Financial Stability, Bank of England:

In fact, high pre-crisis returns to banking had a much more mundane explanation. They reflected simply increased risk-taking across the sector. This was not an outward shift in the portfolio possibility set of finance. Instead, it was a traverse up the high-wire of risk and return. This hire-wire act involved, on the asset side, rapid credit expansion, often through the development of poorly understood financial instruments. On the liability side, this ballooning balance sheet was financed using risky leverage, often at short maturities.

In what sense is increased risk-taking by banks a value-added service for the economy at large? In short, it is not.

Haldane’s article was reposted at Naked Capitalism. What he is getting at is the derivatives market, the unregulated darling of the World of High Finance.  Estimates vary, since there is no good way to get a handle on it, but the highly leveraged derivatives market has a notional value somewhere between 10 and 25 times the aggregate value of global GDP.  In the wake of Phil Graham’s undoing of Glass-Steagal came a sea change in the way the Finance Sector does business, and along with this came a shift from risk management to risk-making.  As Haldane put it: “If risk-making were a value-adding activity, Russian roulette players would contribute disproportionately to global welfare.”

Since none of this activity does anything to create real wealth, it is nothing but rent-seeking.  That is bad, in and of itself.  Worse, still, in Krugman’s words: “Wall Street and the City were con artists extracting huge rents from an unwary public (and eventually dumping much of the cost, when things went bad, on taxpayers).”   What is perhaps worst of all is that the money locked up in these ventures is diverted from real investment.

So, here is the picture.  While the average earnings of working stiffs has been stagnant, at best, corporate profits have grown at an increasing rate.  Further, the percentage of those profits going to the Finance sector has also grown at an increasing rate.  Total profit growth is above exponential, and Finance Sector profit growth is super-exponential.

To summarize:
1) Over the last 30 years banking has devolved from a necessary financial function involved in the allocation of resources and management of risk to essentially non-value-added rent-seeking activities implemented through high risk practices.
2) When the whole house of cards came tumbling down, the losses were socialized, while the criminals who perpetrated the underlying fraud walked off not only scot-free, but with huge bonuses.

There might be some way to justify this if it were leading to greater GDP growth or a rising tide that lifted all the boats.  But the opposite has happened.  GDP growth has been in decline for decades, and the tsunami of profits floating the yachts in the Finance Sector has swamped all the dinghies.

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13.9% Just Under 15% ?

What is a small amount of money ? The extremely excellent Josh Marshall typed

We’ve got the first report about Romney’s 2010 taxes. His effective tax rate was 13.9%, just below the 15% he estimated last week. More shortly.

44 minutes ago (eek I just typed “just typed” then noticed the irony).

The tiny difference between the taxes Romney publicly guessed he roughly paid and the taxes he paid is over $450,000. One of Romney’s many gaffes is saying his taxes were around 15% because, although he had earned money for speaches, he didn’t earn much. Indeed he earned less than 450,000 that way. But it is a huge amount of money to earn with so little sweat.

Similarly the difference between 13.9% and 15% is more than seven times median family income.

Of course, Romney’s income isn’t close to a rounding error in the Federal Budget.

I think that getting the rate under 15% requires considerable effort. As a businessman consulting with his lawyers and accountants, Romney doesn’t leave money on the table (it’s not the money it’s the principle that it’s all about the money). As a candidate, I’m sure he really really wishes he had found a way to send a million more over to the IRS.

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Romney to release tax returns Tuesday (finally)

by Linda Beale

Romney to release tax returns Tuesday (finally)

Romney’s bitter loss to Newt Gingrich in the Republican primary in South Carolina demonstrated that playing the patrician elite above the fray has its limits as a campaign strategy. Romney’s strategists had apparently thought that they could get away with not releasing tax returns–at least not any except his 2011 ones (maybe) when filed–but they hadn’t counted on vicious attacks from the GOP right that questions his vulture capital millions and his top1% effective tax rate.

That’s what happens when there is a campaigner who thinks that earning $370,000 from speeches given to meaningless conventions of some trade or another is “just a little money”, while admitting that the money he still earns from the vulture fund where he oversaw takeovers of companies (and layoffs of employees and offshoring of work) manages to be taxed at a preferential rate of merely 15%.


So after the loss to Gingrich (an odd man to try to claim a populist mantle when he had a $500,000 line of credit at Tiffany’s and disposes of old wives the way most people dispose of old socks), Romney has now announced that he will release returns plus an estimate of his 2011 taxes due. See Michael Shear, Romney to Release Tax Returns on Tuesday, The Caucus, New York Times (Jan. 22, 2012).

One does wonder why it will be Tuesday when they are released. Why not today? or six months ago? Will they be redacted? Will the accompanying schedules that show his income coming through tax haven “companies” located in the law offices that house 18,000 others in the Caymans be there? Questions that we will have fun examining on Tuesday, anyway.

Oh, and Mitch Daniels, current governor of Indiana and Bush assistant who helped preside over the real growth of the federal deficit as Bush pushed through huge tax cuts while increasing federal spending (especially on preemptive wars), will give the GOP response to the State of the Union message. The Tea Party has picked Herman CAin–the author of the infamous 9-9-9 plan who wanted to shift the tax burden brutally onto the backs of the working poor. The GOP seems to have tax cuts for the rich accompanied by increasing burdens for the poor in its blood, doesn’t it
.
originally published at ataxingmatter

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Health Care Thoughts: Evidence Based Medicine

by Tom aka Rusty Rustbelt

Health Care Thoughts: Evidence Based Medicine

Evidence based medicine is one of the center pieces of PPACA (Obamacare) and is generally viewed as THE enlightened way to practice medicine and to direct dollars more effectively. Problem is, there is a “whose ox just got gored” issue.

The American Psychiatric Association is currently revising guidelines for autism spectrum diagnoses, and early research indicates some high cognition youngsters may have their diagnosis dropped or altered. This could result in an alteration or loss of services (caveat: it is very early in the process).

It has been suggested over the past couple of decades the diagnosis was expanded, perhaps past the bounds of science, as parents scrambled and pleaded for help. Parents and educators are concerned. What parent can blame them?
In 2009 new recommendations were published for breast cancer treatment and there was a firestorm of criticism. Breast cancer is an emotional topic (justifiably so).

We tend to associate less treatment with neglect or negligence.

But, if we are to follow evidence based medicine then we have to go with evidence. Right? Many difficult decisions lie ahead. (My own physician has cut back testing at my annual physical based on new guidelines, so I have a personal stake in this.)

PS: New guidelines on bone densiometry (osteoporosis test) are coming soon and will probably indicate less testing for women once a baseline is established.

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The Rulers Cannot Take Responsibility

op-ed by Noni Mausa

   
The Rulers Cannot Take Responsibility

At least, not in the sense of crime and punishment.  Only in  immediate, short term and small decisions can political rulers be  unambiguously judged right or wrong, and adequately punished.  There is no punishment, however severe, that can adequately balance the potential harm done by one man or a small group to an entire nation.  Even in ordinary people, the threat of reprisals is unevenly effective in preventing crimes. And nobody thinks such threats can prevent  stupidity, misjudgment and decisions made on incomplete data.  The scope for such poor decisions is magnified thousandfold in the public arena.

In government the scale of possible harm is so disproportionate to what a bad ruler can suffer or repay, that for all practical purposes they wield power without responsibility.

Even the most earnest and caring leader, the cleverest, the strongest,  cannot “take responsibility.” They can do much good and much harm, but  they personally can’t be held accountable in any way that mends the broken crockery of the nation.

The whole purpose of government is to make decisions for the common  good across time.  Longer than a term of office or even a lifetime,  the work of government requires planning and caution.  It is
inherently conservative in the original sense of the word.  The only way rulers can “take responsibility” is to realize this and  to make decisions and support social structures that are cautious and  conscious.


They need to build and maintain excess capacity.  They must conserve  resources that might be useful or more valuable in the future.  They  need to nurture relationships with other nations and peoples.  They need to sponsor or at least tolerate a myriad of niches of knowledge,  skills and unique obsessions.  We can’t know when we will need them.  A high-functioning nation is the opposite of a high-functioning  business.  Efficiency for its own sake is dangerous.  Demanding
immediate profits, or any profits at all, can reduce the effectiveness  of a government.  Messyculture, not monoculture, is more valuable over time. (Taxol, anyone?) And a large, durable bureaucracy acts as a keel and ballast together, steadying and orienting the nation.  Even in non-democratic countries, a series of captains (kings, tyrants, revolutionaries) take the wheel and steer for a little time, only to
be replaced.

When you’re sleeping on a mountain ledge in the fog and can’t see the dropoff, it makes sense to sleep right up against the stone wall.  In effective government, red tape and a habit of caution are kept in place to prevent us rolling over the edge.

Are there any conservatives in the US today?  Maybe the Greens, and  some of the Democrats.  Perhaps some of the quieter, older Republicans.  But it’s almost certain that there is no-one high in the  big US parties today who is conservative enough to keep us off the rocks.  This leaves informed voters with nothing but distasteful choices.  The best we can do is look for candidates who are least
likely to cut the safety tape, and most likely to send out scouts to monitor the crumbling cliff’s edge.

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The Beginning of the End of Citizens United?

 I sent a link to Beverly to this article which stated Citizen United was not so much about corporate personhood. Here is her response, and in addition in a later e-mail Beverly makes this key point (intro amended for readability):

…that no constitutional amendment is necessary in order to nullify Citizens United, because Citizens United actually was decided on the basis of a purported issue of fact that was unsupported by any evidence and that can be refuted by actual clear evidence–and that that’s really the point that the Montana Supreme Court justices were making.

and actually much more….

by Beverly Mann

The Beginning of the End of Citizens United

The article makes the important point that Citizens United and Bellotti, the 1978 opinion that Citizens United uses as its justification, focus mainly on the listeners’ right to hear political speech rather than on the speaker’s right to speak, and so it is not corporate personhood but instead the money-is-speech Supreme Court tenet that is the operative precept in Citizens United. But then the authors claim that, because no listener was a plaintiff challenging the constitutionality of the statute, the Court had no authority to decide the issue on the basis of the supposed interests of listener members of the public. That’s ridiculous, and they themselves effectively refute it. They say:

For their traditional First Amendment balancing, on one side of the scale, courts have categorized the speech as either a kind that communicates an idea, opinion, demand, information relevant to democratic debate, etcetera, or a kind that better fits the category of being merely an instrumentality of transactional conduct. (The speech can also fall in the middle between these two categories). The more communicative and the less transactional, the more weight the courts have recognized on this side of the scale. On the other side of the scale is weighed the amount of harm done by allowing the speech. Speech that merely facilitates the conduct of transactions, such as fraud, conspiracy, insider trading tips, pimping and so forth may properly be criminalized and regulated without much regard for the fact that the means for carrying out the transactions may be entirely speech. Money in politics falls within the category of transactional speech, and it also causes severe harm to the democratic form of government. It may, therefore, be regulated and criminalized.

One reason why speech that communicates political argument, ideas, opinions, information relevant to democratic debate, is more protected under the First Amendment than commercial or transactional speech is that the public has a stronger interest in hearing, and therefore a stronger right to hear, political argument, ideas, information, etc., than it does transactional speech. A big part of the balancing in First Amendment speech cases concerns the interest of the listener.


Also, their statement that “[m]oney in politics falls within the category of transactional speech” is clearly wrong. It seems to me that money in politics isn’t speech at all. But it’s certainly not transactional speech. Transactional speech is the speech intended to induce the payment of money—speech intended to induce the purchase, or whatever. It’s not the payment of the money.

It’s also wrong to conclude that corporate personhood played no role at all in the outcome of Citizens United. The majority talked about the First Amendment right of corporations, unions, nonprofits, to have their message heard through mass media—and that therefore they themselves (the corporations, unions , nonprofits), like listeners of speech, have a First Amendment right to have their message heard only because they are deemed “persons.” The First Amendment gives rights only to persons or “persons”. So in this case, it was both the supposed rights of the human listeners and, separately, the supposed rights of the speaker “persons” that the Court found that the statute violated. But either one alone would have been enough, in the opinion of the Court’s bare majority, in this case.

Then there’s this paragraph, which makes no sense at all:

First, the Roberts 5 stepped outside the court’s constitutional authority by taking up and deciding cases concerning election integrity. Maintaining the integrity of elections was a political question of such importance to the founding fathers who wrote the Constitution that in Article I, Sections 4 and 5, they specifically consigned to the elected Congress both regulation and judging of the manner of holding elections. The founders rightly understood that Congress would be far more subject to popular pressure to maintain election integrity than would the appointed-for-life members of the court. Taking up a case and overturning a law that provides for election integrity infringes a power specifically assigned to Congress, thereby undermining the separation of powers. This also violates the court’s own well-established precedent of refusing jurisdiction concerning political questions. The court followed this traditional rule defining the boundary between judicial and legislative issues from the 1803 decision in Marbury v. Madison until the Buckley decision in 1976.

Huh? Of course the Court has the constitutional authority to take up and decide cases concerning election integrity. Yes, Article I, Sections 4 and 5, specifically consign to the elected Congress both regulation and judging of the manner of holding elections. Other sections of Article I, and other parts of the Constitution, consign to Congress the writing of other types of statutes. And under Marbury v. Madison, the Court has the authority to decide the constitutionality of those statutes.
They are right that the court improperly “overruled a fully supported legislative finding that private money in elections causes sufficient harm to justify its regulation.” In the Montana case discussed in the article, in which the Montana Supreme Court on Dec. 31 issued an opinion upholding the constitutionality of a longtime Montana statute limiting campaign contributions and (I believe) campaign expenditures supposedly independent of specific candidates’ campaigns, despite Citizens United, there was specific, strong evidence both of actual corruption before the enactment of the legislation, and of a strong public belief that unlimited contributions and independent expenditures by corporate interests (or by very wealthy individuals) undermines the integrity of the legislative process.

The Montana Supreme Court opinion details this. In Citizens United, the majority said they concluded that neither of these existed. But in light of the detailed examples of that type of corruption, and the statement of six of the seven Montana Supreme Court justices that they themselves believe that unlimited contributions and independent expenditures directly corrupts the legislative process, it will be a lot of fun to watch the Supreme Court majority reiterate that they “find” that there is no such corruption and no public perception that that kind of money undermines the integrity of the legislative process.

The Citizens United majority’s purported finding was intended as a finding of fact, not a statement of law—a very big difference, and the reason that, as you know, Dan, I disagree with the legal pundits who have said they expect that the Supreme Court will overrule the Montana Supreme Court.
In Citizens United, the Supreme Court simply decided on its own to address this issue and the constitutionality of the part of the McCain-Feingold law that this supposed finding of fact concerned. There was no evidentiary hearing in the trial court concerning either actual corruption or the public perception of it, related to unlimited campaign contributions and unlimited independent campaign expenditures by corporations. The Court’s majority simply pronounced their finding of fact based upon nothing more than their personal views, their own ideology, as if ideology and the personal opinions of five justices is evidence.

In my opinion, under the ruling in Citizens United, which actually is a fact-based ruling rather than a categorical statement of constitutional law, Congress could re-enact a statute similar to that part of McCain-Feingold, and as the law stands now, under Citizens United, defend its constitutionality in court. When the statute’s constitutionality is challenged, the government, in defending in the lawsuit, could parade huge numbers of people—some of them very high-profile. NY Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, for example, has called the system of campaign contributions legalized bribery authorized by the Supreme Court), some of them just ordinary folks from, say, Montana—to refute the unsupported , out-of-the-blue, findings of fact in Citizens United.

Unless, of course, the Supreme Court, in, say, the Montana case suddenly changes the stated justification for its Citizens United ruling, from a supposedly fact-based one to a categorical ruling of law that the First Amendment bars any such statutory restrictions irrespective of facts, and therefore overtly removes this area of First Amendment law from the usual balancing-of-interests analysis. Most people think that’s what they did in Citizens United. But it’s not. The Montana Supreme Court justices recognized this, and it was the basis for their ruling.

And once the Montana case gets to the Supreme Court, and gets the national publicity it will get if (almost certainly, when) the Supreme Court agrees to hear it, the public will learn this. I think the Court will be treading quite close to losing the confidence of a vast majority of the public if it reiterates its own claimed finding of fact from Citizens United, in the face of the extensive evidence in that case (again, including the view of six of the seven Montana Supreme Court justices) that vast majorities of the public do, as a matter of fact, perceive that unlimited campaign contributions and veneer-thinly-independent electioneering expenditures compromise the integrity of the legislative system. And I think the justices will recognize that.

Which will leave them with the choice between categorically rewriting a significant part of First Amendment law, which they superficially nodded to in Citizens United and circumvented there via their spontaneous finding of fact, or instead once again overtly supersede clear fact with their own Mad Hatter view of it. Sit tight.

Beverly

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Educating Dean Baker

I never expected to type that. I have great respect for Dean Baker who, among other things, convinced Paul Krugman we were in a housing bubble. He is very smart and writes about important issues. But he has recently written two posts which contain the same elementary error.

I don’t want to be rude, but the posts make me think of Robert Lucas’s tirade against Christy Romer.
Baker wrote

Steven Rattner remains convinced that handing future generations trillions of dollars of government bonds imposes a burden on them and is very unhappy that I don’t see things that way. Let’s try this one more time.

[skip]

At some future point, everyone who owns this debt today will be dead. They will have no choice but to hand this debt on to members of the next generation, either their own heirs or someone else’s.

Baker asserts that if someone owns something, he must keep it till he dies then leave it to his heirs. In fact, it is also possible to sell it and consume the proceeds. My objection to Baker’s post really is just that elementary.

I suppose one might argue that I have missed something. I don’t think I have and explain at gruesome length after the jump.

First I stress that Baker didn’t just assert that something will happen, he claimed that something must happen “have no choice.” That means his claim is a mathematical claim which can be refuted by an example. The example is presented in

Diamond Peter (1965) “National Debt in a Neoclassical Growth Model” AER LV December 1965 pp 1126-1150.

The way in which national debt can fail to crowd out capital formation is that the current generation can (and will) choose to leave bequests. If they do this for purely altruistic reasons and if they have rational expectations, then public debt can affect the economy only due to distortions from the taxes needed to service this.

Note that, if Baker is right, then tax cuts do not stimulate aggregate demand. If he is right that, if there were non-distortionary taxation,, deficits would do no harm when the economy is not in a liquidity trap, they would do no good when the economy is in a liquidity trap (although public spending would stimulate).
OK now I will address the argument. I will always discuss what the current generation can do. In particular I will ask what happens if we all decide that those yet to be born will get no financial assets except as wages for work performed (to add a hint of realism I assume that they will be given milk and such when they are newborn but no cash no bonds and no stocks). I don’t think we are going to suddenly turn that selfish. I am asking whether we have that choice or if we have n o choice but o leave bequests.

As always I start from a very simple model with very extreme assumptions.

The extreme assumptions are that our days are numbered and that we know the number. That is people know exactly when they will die. Such people can arrange to have zero wealth when they die. They can sell bonds to other people who will live longer and use the money to buy and consume goods and services. If people know when they are going to die, they just don’t have to leave bequests. Aggregating, the current generation sells the bonds to future generations and consumes more than it would if there were no such bonds. This is mathematically possible and would happen under the extreme assumptions (which are basically the assumptions Diamond made).
OK now assume that death is unpredictable except also assume that there will be plenty of not yet born people working before the currently alive die (still extreme). Those who don’t want to leave a bequest can sell their bonds to the young and buy annuities. These are really existing financial instruments which pay a stream of income so long as the owner is alive and then are worthless. The market for annuities is tiny, because people with assets want to leave bequests not because the have no choice.

Well that is still unrealistic. Death can come at any time. But if this generation is nasty enough, we can name an heir in this generation. That way money only passes to those not yet born when the very last person no alive dies. Long before that, the now living people can sell bonds to the not yet born and buy annuities.

It is absolutely possible for us to make public debt a burden on future generations. The math works fine. There have long been models in the literature (most with the super strong assumption) which have the property that public debt makes future generations poorer. The distinction between models with infinitely lived agents and models with overlapping generations is fundamental in the macroeconomic theory literature.

Theory might be pointless but not because we can tell that something is logically impossible even though it would occur if a formal mathematical model were reality. Baker is claiming we know something from logic alone (always wrong) when, in fact, we can tell from logic alone that his claim is false.

OK no one will read this far so I can be as rude as I want. Baker’s two recent posts remind me of Cochrane and Lucas. The funny thing is that the concept of Ricardian equivalence is involved in both huge errors. In his diatribe against Romer, Lucas made the exact same error Baker made asserting that we know that there is Ricardian equivalence. That it is not an implausible theoretical possibility but a necessary truth. The similarity is that in all three cases, economists who have done good work made elementary errors. All three asserted that economists know something to be true, when elementary lectures are devoting to proving that it is false.

(Dan here….some minor formatting was done for easier reading)

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It Was Completely Legal

by Mike Kimel  

It Was Completely Legal

Almost two decades ago, an acquaintance asked me to lunch in Los Angeles. Said acquaintance mentioned he had connections with a few nightclubs – he stressed that they were nightclubs – in Macao and Hong Kong, and that “Brazilian girls” – women from about 18 to 26 or so – were becoming a hot commodity in both places. Given that I grew up in Brazil, my acquaintance thought he could have me fly down to Brazil and do some recruiting for them.

We never got down to brass tacks because, though it would have been very lucrative, it wasn’t something I could do. Yes, I’m pretty sure it would have been very easy to locate women either “in the trade” or (what they were really after) semi-professionals willing to move to Macao or Hong Kong for promises that they’d make a lot more money. And my bet is that some of these women I would have located would have made a lot of money. And I’m sure that my end of the operation, recruiting, would have been entirely legal by the laws of the US, Brazil, Hong Kong and Macao. Certainly the way the business was described to me, my acquaintance and his connections had no difficulties with the law either. Things were set up in such a way that what they were doing was completely legal.

But there was a problem for me. I didn’t know all that much about the industry with which my acquaintance had turned out to be associated, but I did know it can be a very dangerous one for the type of person they wanted me to recruit. I could only imagine that the potential dangers would be even greater in a foreign country where the person had no ties and little or no status.


I had no illusions that my refusal to participate would make any difference at all. I don’t recall if I ever saw that acquaintance again, but I would be surprised if he didn’t find someone else who took care of recruiting for him. The industry in Hong Kong and Macao, no doubt, continued apace.

I should also note that whoever took that job would have made a lot of money, more than I did in any remotely comparable amount of time. The only thing my walking away accomplished was that whatever happened going forward, I had nothing to do with it. To this day, I have no regrets that I turned my acquaintance down.

I mention all this because the “it was completely legal” defense has been cropping up a lot lately in things I read. I think its use may be about to increase a lot more in the near future. And if I might contribute one thing to the discussion, please remember this: that an activity is completely legal isn’t an excuse for participating in it.

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