Sex Trafficking: An Inside View - Part II

McDonald's Restaurant Kowloon

Sex Trafficking: An Inside View - Part II

An Unspoken Voices Exclusive

For the next four weeks of Sex Trafficking Awareness Month, Unspoken Voices will share stories from one of our own volunteers who chose to fight against trafficking and tyranny in an incredible way. He traveled to some of the biggest hot-spots for trafficking—from places like Hong Kong to Cambodia.

The stories can be heartbreaking but they are realistic. There is humor and grace, fear and pain.

I invite you along on this journey of extraction into the tragic & dark world of trafficking.

Part II: Trafficking is Not Always Sexual

by Jay Morse

Tonight I stopped at a McDonald's on Argyle Street near Nathan Road, the main drag here in Kowloon. The place was packed. They had six automated kiosks to take your order and e-payment but only one cashier for nutcases who prefer to pay cash or talk to a human being.   

When I got back to my guest house I spotted this notice on the wall:

"The minimum wage in Hong Kong is $34.50, effective May 1, 2017."

That's less than five US dollars.

A lot has been made in the US of minimum wage hikes hastening the replacement of McDonald's low skilled workers by robots. But here that is happening at a minimum wage a fraction of what it is in the US, and way below subsistence level. Also note that while the kitchen crew here is still human, fast food places in China are beginning to install burger flipping robots.  

What does it tell us when humans who can be paid way below the US minimum wage are being replaced by robots?

A) Artificial intelligence (AI) is driving the marginal value of unskilled and semi-skilled human work toward zero. It is already below subsistence levels in some fields.

B) AI is beginning to drive down the value of analytical work that can be routinized. For example, most of the trades on Wall Street are now done by bots. Bots are teaching themselves to trade at levels of sophistication humans do not comprehend.  

C) As the value of human work declines overall, tax revenue that can be collected from income, sales and value added taxes will fall. We may already be seeing this. After eight years of supposed economic expansion, labor force participation has fallen and Washington still runs massive deficits. Look for governments attempting to tax services and imports to fill the holes in their finances. These short term fixes will not reverse the long term trends of declining tax revenue, declining scope of government, and declining scales of sovereignty. Such trends are already well underway due in part to declining amounts of new energy yielded from each unit invested in energy development. (Tips of the hat to Gail Tverberg, Steven St Angelo and James Dale Davidson.)

D) Look for greater efforts to tax financial capital on a global basis as the scale of sovereignty and the scope of government decline to counter owners of capital having ever more jurisdictions to shop for the lowest tax rate. Since financial capital is highly mobile and government is corruptible, governments are at a disadvantage in this contest.

E) The declining income available for governments to redistribute will collide with rising numbers of destitute people being ejected from the global economy. Political rent-seeking will become more desperate as it becomes less effective. Monetization of sovereign debt will likely accelerate until confidence in sovereign currencies is lost. What else will governments or central banks be willing to do?

F) What, then, can you call a "labor contract" when the marginal value of work approaches zero?  Slavery. Not the feudal or chattel slavery of millennia past when people at least had value as real property. Not indentured servitude either. What kind, then? We already have it. I recommend Disposable People by Prof. Geoffrey Bales. Readers of that book—and others since—know that the implications for women and children are particularly dire. 

All this, from a trip to McDonald's.