More on economics

In the last post I talked about economics theory. Specifically, I pointed to the idea that if there is a demand, there will be a supply.  There is, however, more to this than simply meets the eye.

In the counter trafficking movement, much of the work being done has been to control the supply side of things.  Education outreach to villages encourages raised awareness of the risk of trafficking thus reducing the amount of people who will be duped into it. Vocational training and keeping kids in school projects work to increase the economic viability of at-risk populations making them less susceptible to traffickers. Economic development through asset-building and micro-loan programs have likewise made less people vulnerable.  Increasing the security at international borders has increased the number of individuals caught before crossing and thus saved from an unknown future.

But, in reality, a lot of what this is doing is to decrease (but not eliminate) the supply and do nothing to the demand. With a smaller supply and a constant demand, the profitability of human trafficking is actually going up.  Those traffickers who have found ways to traffic people and get them successfully to their destinations, are making more money then they were in the past.  Admittedly, this is hardly working as a deterrent

Human trafficking is tied with illegal arms trade as the second biggest illegal criminal industry in the world—and it is the fastest growing.

In order to curtail this, counter-trafficking programs and governments need to start focusing not just on the supply side, but also on two other key points:

  1. Decrease demand
  2. Increase penalties

If we decrease the demand for slave labor, beggars, prostitutes, etc., then the trafficking rings will have nowhere to sell their “goods” (aka human beings). If they have nowhere to sell the people to and profitability falls, they will go out of business. 

On the penalty side, there are not enough disincentives to either be a trafficker or to use the service of trafficked people.  For example, in many places it is illegal to be a prostitute, but not illegal to be a pimp or a john. The legal system, thus, punishes victims of trafficking (prostitutes) but does not adequately punish those who have trafficked them (unless there is a solid case of trafficking) or those who have bought their services.

Even in places where traffickers are prosecuted, often the punishment in terms of money and time in jail is not on-par with that of trafficking illegal drugs or weapons.  Therefore, with the penalties being less and the goods being re-sellable, it is an obvious and smart choice for criminal networks to get involved in human trafficking as opposed to drug or arms sales.



  1. Crime, Punishment, and Economics. Good well thought out post. Try bending your mind around this:
    Emerging economies cannot afford the pretentious “civilization” that mature economies think they can. Nothing will stop new economic expansion as quick as unneeded and cumbersome laws will. No law should be passed that cannot be understood by 8 out of 10 citizens. No need for lawyers.
    Criminal and civil penalties should be “an eye for an eye”. With the exception of self defense, why you do something should not enter into it. For example, if you steal something (take something that does not belong to you) then the person or persons from whom you stole must be recomposed for the item(s) in value to what you took, plus they would be allowed to take whatever they want (singular or plural) from you (you took from them now they take from you).
    In the case of human trafficking the convicted trafficker should be sold with the proceeds going to the intended victim.
    In the more serious case of killing someone (except in self defense), you should be killed in the same manner that you killed. For example, if you stab someone 16 times and they die, then you will be stabbed 16 times to execute you.
    This is a very straightforward justice system requiring comparatively little money to support it.
    Of course trial should be by a jury composed of people from the community of the victim. Court proceedings should be a search for truth not trial by combat. Prosecutorial misconduct should be punished by the prosecutor(s) serving the same amount of time in prison as the person whom they harmed and the victim should receive the prosecutor’s salary for the time the prosecutor(s) are in prison.
    An eye for an eye.
    The Deacon

  2. I think I would disagree with the idea you put forth on several grounds. First of all, it makes a presumption that developing societies are dumb and unable to understand complex ideas. The thought that westerners, or those from the third world, can and should decide what concepts a country is ready for seems to me to be very patronizing. Secondly, an eye for an eye (while an old adage) has no place in society. It teaches that the act (in this case selling another person) is acceptable. How do you fight against something while at the same time taking part in it?

    I realize that cumbersome laws can stop an economy from growing. But also lack of any laws or sole emphasis being put on economic growth does little good for a country in the future. There myst be some balance. Also, Cambodia isn’t a 3rd world country that is experiencing a huge amount of economic growth. More so, because of history, it needs to focus on growth of human capital before true economic growth can be successful. And, in many ways, this is what it is doing.

  3. i am trying to find out about as much information on cambodia’s gross national product for my project assignment. in researching, this i have learned a lot about my subject. your pieces have helped me a lot. could you please help find out the gnp[gross national product].

    thank you much

  4. I don’t know off the top of my head, I would suggest, however, checking out the cia website as they usually have up-to-date econ stats. Good luck on the project!

  5. I am sorry that you thought that I was talking down to emerging economies I do/did not mean to. Actually one of my points is that complexities of government lead to expensive inefficiences which emerging economies cannot afford but mature economies can. For some reason mature economites keep trying to impose their “style” on young economies and I do not have much patience for that kind of domineering behavior.
    As far as selling the human trafficker is concerned, I’m not sure that putting him/her to work on a prison road gang is all that much different except that it deprives the victim of any meaningful restitution. Thank you for your feed back.

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