100 Economics Question of the Day: An Intermittent Blog: If you ban a market, cui bono?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

If you ban a market, cui bono?

The petition was popular last year. This year, the legislature, never known for its perspicacity, made the move: U.K. moves to ban violent sex on Net. Well, not the presence of violent sex on the Net; just knowing about it:

On Tuesday the government agreed, announcing plans --- the first, it said, by any Western country --- to ban the downloading and possession of violent sexual images.

Ignoring the legal questions (e.g., what is "serious violence"?) and giggling at the disclaimers ("the government said it did not plan to prosecute people who accidentally stumbled across the images"), this is a markets question.

If you make a living selling imagery, including that which is a "graphic and sexually explicit and which contains actual scenes or realistic depictions of serious violence, bestiality or necrophilia," then the economy is willing and able to "clear" your transaction such a manner as to make it worth your while to produce those depictions.

What is the effect on demand--and on price--if the available commodity is then banned in one form (but, notably, no others)?

(As an aside, I can think of several episodes of, for instance, Millennium that may count, if they were viewed as streaming video. Depending on enforcement decisions.)

The two most obvious natural beneficiaries of the law should be:

1. Adult Video Stores (those who choose not to risk downloading shopping elsewhere), and
2. Producers of violent-sex material (who go from being price-takers to price-makers, and are compensated for their greater risk.

Am I missing anyone?


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26 October, 2005 18:52  

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