Cross-posted at the Angry Bear blog.
Almost two decades ago, an acquaintance asked me to lunch in Los Angeles. Said acquaintance mentioned he had connections with a few nightclubs – he stressed that they were nightclubs – in Macao and Hong Kong, and that “Brazilian girls” – women from about 18 to 26 or so – were becoming a hot commodity in both places. Given that I grew up in Brazil, my acquaintance thought he could have me fly down to Brazil and do some recruiting for them.
We never got down to brass tacks because, though it would have been very lucrative, it wasn’t something I could do. Yes, I’m pretty sure it would have been very easy to locate women either “in the trade” or (what they were really after) semi-professionals willing to move to Macao or Hong Kong for promises that they’d make a lot more money. And my bet is that some of these women I would have located would have made a lot of money. And I’m sure that my end of the operation, recruiting, would have been entirely legal by the laws of the US, Brazil, Hong Kong and Macao. Certainly the way the business was described to me, my acquaintance and his connections had no difficulties with the law either. Things were set up in such a way that what they were doing was completely legal.
But there was a problem for me. I didn’t know all that much about the industry with which my acquaintance had turned out to be associated, but I did know it can be a very dangerous one for the type of person they wanted me to recruit. I could only imagine that the potential dangers would be even greater in a foreign country where the person had no ties and little or no status.
I had no illusions that my refusal to participate would make any difference at all. I don’t recall if I ever saw that acquaintance again, but I would be surprised if he didn’t find someone else who took care of recruiting for him. The industry in Hong Kong and Macao, no doubt, continued apace.
I should also note that whoever took that job would have made a lot of money, more than I did in any remotely comparable amount of time. The only thing my walking away accomplished was that whatever happened going forward, I had nothing to do with it. To this day, I have no regrets that I turned my acquaintance down.
I mention all this because the “it was completely legal” defense has been cropping up a lot lately in things I read. I think its use may be about to increase a lot more in the near future. And if I might contribute one thing to the discussion, please remember this: that an activity is completely legal isn’t an excuse for participating in it.