The company that made the perfect dog food experienced a marketing failure because the dogs wouldn’t eat their product. The most basic of economic principles, supply and demand, were in play. The dog food was one of countless patents and copyrights that languish because of no demand.
An April 29 editorial in the Houston Chronicle applies this principle from a different perspective. The title is “In Child Trafficking Cases, Place Blame on Buyers.” While this editorial indirectly suggests penalizing those on the demand side, the intended result is the same: to make it unprofitable to supply a product.
We can apply this principle to most of the major social problems that plague society. Consider pornography, made worse in the last decade by emerging and growing technologies that make this one of the most lucrative industries on the internet. It’s profitable because of the demand for commercial sex.
Drug trafficking is a similar problem, profitable only because of demand. Any war on the supply side of the illegal drug trade is a failure before it starts. Everyone in the supply chain has at least one other person ready to take over when the position is vacated either by arrest or by death. (Actually, death typically follows arrest. The procedure is to bring cash to make bail, kill the released prisoner, present the death certificate, and recover the bail money.) Nonetheless, someone is always willing to take the risk in return for the potential reward.
Several years ago the “Just Say No” program was instituted, and immediately the program and its champions became a laughing stock. America’s youth had nothing but contempt for the program, making it a laughing stock. Since that time it has become common knowledge that the program was only an attempt to appear interested in slowing the drug trade.
The April 29 editorial brought out a concept well known in our national and state capitols. The problem goes deeper than ignorance. It reaches into the pocketbooks and addictions of those in the highest levels of government. We’ve all read reports of cases exposing government officials who pay for sex with children, legislators being treated for drug abuse, and high-level officials viewing and downloading pornography from the internet onto government computers.
The legislators and our chief law enforcers for one reason or another are inadequate to address the demand side of illegal trafficking. The court systems are also of little help, since their only concern is with the law. Such high-sounding terms as morality, ethics, and justice are irrelevant unless they are happy by-products of following the law.
The demand side of much illegal trafficking must first be addressed in the home.
In the case of child trafficking, the issue needs to begin with sexual abuse in all of its dimensions. Diane Cranley, the founder of TAALK (“Talk About Abuse to Liberate Kids”) has set up taalk.org to help in the efforts to educate children effectively. Her premise is to break the silence that surrounds child sexual abuse, promoting early exposure and creating a safe home environment for open dialogue between parent and child. Age-appropriate sharing can go far in the inoculation of children against all forms of sexual abuse, from inappropriate contact by predators to avoiding abduction and later even becoming a customer of the sex trade.
These principles are portable; that is, they can apply to drug consumption as well. Just as parents can tell their children that there are good and bad touches, parents can tell their children that there good and bad medicines. Just as parents can tell their children that some people try to touch them in bad ways, parents can tell their children that some people try to give them bad medicines.
The principle of supply and demand is more powerful than any legislation ever passed in the capitals of the states and our nation. Obstacles remain to the effective use of these principles in the areas of human and drug trafficking, undeniably. But it is possible to make strides in overcoming these obstacles only if we will start. The time to make that start is now.
Grace and Peace,