I have a number of blogs that I read regularly; most deal with personal finance. I read them not because I am a personal finance guru, but oftentimes they may have practical tips regarding money that I try to incorporate into my own life . Plus, in my endeavor to pay off all my student loan debt – which I did last month by the way – it was encouraging walking with other people in various stages of life overcome their own battles. One of the newer blogs, NoDebtMBA drifted across my wandering eyes of the blogosphere. This blog details one individual’s goal to attend a top MBA school and graduate debt free. I’m quite impressed with the effort to build a readership and draw traffic to the site. Plus, detailing the efforts to graduate without debt is quite laudable. I could relate to many of the posts in my own effort to minimize debt while in law school. (Disclosure: I also had a $25 weekly grocery budget). Recently, I read one post, “An Arrangement to Pay the Bills” mentioning that some university-level students are financing crushing debt through risque ventures.
The question NoDebtMBA posited was whether the utility of the prostitution outweighed the psychological, health, moral, and career consequences of the “arrangement.” The post garnered a fair amount of attention with some commentators ranging from the apathetic, and the-end-justifies-the-means, to my comment providing the counterweight to the other comments.
I’m not blind to the reality of the situation; women (and to a much lesser extent, men) have ventured into the undercurrent of the gray market where sex and money changes had with regularity. The participants of such dalliances self-police themselves to maintain the existence of the market. To a certain extent, the entire sub-culture mirrors the complex drug cartels operating in Mexico. One difference, however, is that unlike the drug cartels, virtually anyone – focusing primarily on women – can participate on a small scale and operate as frequent or infrequently as the case may be.
The issue I have with the entire situation is that it is farcical to divorce morality from economics. If economy was valued on the basis of the net benefit to its market participants, it would ignore the deeper societal implications and create absurdity. Morality, and its inverse, immorality, permeates society in a zero-sum arrangement. I often hear the refrain, “what is the harm in X.” Often the argument is flawed because it centers on a specific transaction as a contractual arrangement where the benefit or harm to society is ephemeral. However, the development of a healthy society is the lifeblood that permits the marketplace to exist. Society, through the legislature, makes public policy decisions rooted in morality that benefits the community as a whole. To protect society, we criminalize rather than regulate certain activities: purchasing drugs, child prostitution, and murder (and yes, even murder-for-hire).
Encouraging alternative debt financing “arrangements” does not provide a net benefit to society. For one, it takes commoditizes one’s body and reduces an act, oft-considered sacred and places a number upon it. Consider the regular situation in which married John engages the sexual services of Jane, an unmarried woman. Specifically looking at the financial arrangement, benefit is incurred upon both individuals but harm is incurred too, on John’s wife.
The notion that certain plausible situations would legitimize the scandalous situation is illusory in itself. As I’ve mentioned before, sex is more than physical. And it’s not only an economic transaction.
Update: I was watching FOX news last night and they ran a story on “Sugar Daddies.” Topical, but relevant. Find it here.