Vice Squad
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
What About Our Trademark?

Sweden is setting up a 'vice squad.' Sounds like it's a bunch of social scientists, too. Hrummph.

Their job, it is claimed, is to estimate the size of the underground economy in Sweden. The European Commission insists upon a full accounting of economic activity, so even illegal transactions must be included -- in particular, illicit drug sales, prostitution services, and the undergound liquor trade. The article suggests that this estimation will (a) not affect the overall stats much; and, (2) is harder in Sweden than in the Netherlands, because prostitution is legal in the Netherlands and small trade in cannabis is quasi-legal. I disagree on both counts, but mostly on the second.

For the prostitution estimates, it is suggested that Swedish prices are more-or-less public knowledge thanks to web ads, but that the frequency of visits to prostitutes is not similarly transparent. The researchers intend to exploit some vice complementarities to estimate the extent of prostitution: as many prostitutes are drug addicts, they will see how much prostitution would be required to support a drug habit.

Incidentally, recall that in Sweden, prostitution involves a one-sided prohibition: the purchases by customers are illegal, while the sales by prostitutes are legal.

Thanks to friend of Vice Squad Will Pyle for the pointer.

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