This is a pretty cool gig if you can manage to swing it. Be the person responsible for reducing slavery and trafficking – things we obviously want to reduce right down to zero – and then bring in laws which increase the amount of slavery and trafficking. So, the more you expend righteous effort to reduce these evils the more you find, the higher your budget and staff levels go and as a bureaucrat you’re in God’s Own Heaven.
Of course, the laws you’ve brought in don’t actually increase slavery, but they do increase the amount of it that’s recorded – so you still know that you’re not increasing the amount of oppression going on. You can thus swallow ever more of the nation’s money with a clear conscience. There is, after all, no other motivating force for a bureaucracy than that continual increase in budget as C. Northcote Parkinson so accurately pointed out.
This is not, by the way, a joke:
Theresa May’s flagship modern slavery laws are enabling foreign criminals to pose as children to escape prosecution. An investigation by The Sunday Times has revealed flaws in the Modern Slavery Act that allow criminals to evade charges by claiming they are under 18 and the victims of trafficking. Under the law, introduced in 2015, a taskforce was set up to tackle a scourge said to affect 13,000 people in the UK, from workers in nail bars and cannabis farms to women forced into prostitution. It created a safeguard for trafficked children, known as a section 45 defence, to protect those under 18 from prosecution even if they have committed crimes.
OK, so what’s happening then? Well, obviously enough, those found being criminals are claiming to be under 18 and slaves, or possibly over but trafficked. Because the incentive to do so is obvious enough, isn’t it?
In one case a Vietnamese cannabis farmer, who was found by police tied and gagged in a house in the northwest after a burglary by other criminals, claimed he was 15 and trafficked. The CPS advised against charges because police were unable to prove he was not a child. Officers said “he was clearly an adult conspiring to grow large amounts of cannabis”. He was placed into social care in Lancashire and went missing in three days. He was then listed on the police national computer as a vulnerable missing child. He was discovered living in Merseyside and picked up by immigration services. He told them the same story, that he was 15 and trafficked, and was housed in foster care. Again he went missing. His whereabouts are now unknown. Police say this is a familiar pattern, particularly among Vietnamese gangs who run cannabis farm operations.
Come along now, the first great lesson of economics? Incentives matter. Good, so, the incentive is to claim slavery or trafficking. Which is where our problem – our problem as a society, for the bureaucracy it’s just great – comes with this:
Note the detail above. At least one of those 120 Vietnamese children recorded as having been trafficked is our now missing adult cannabis farmer. We’re also told this is a familiar pattern. And the truth is, we’ve absolutely no evidence whatsoever that all of those listed as being trafficked are not adult criminals on the run. No, not even I think that all of them are but the point still stands.
We’re including in our numbers of those enslaved and trafficked those we absolutely know are actually nor enslaved nor trafficked. Who are, in fact, taking advantage of the laws to claim and cop a plea. We actually don’t know – genuinely don’t know – whether we’ve caught zero child slaves or more than that. But we still use the rising number of such recorded to insist that we’ve a large and growing problem that we must throw more money at.
Jeez, can’t we get people to understand the most basic damn thing? Incentives matter.