Gavan Reilly

thinking out loud

The Balls-out Bailout

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After spending most of two days offline, there’s no welcome back to the internet like this kind of story.

It seems that in the midst of Dell pulling out of Limerick, and all the turmoil in the banking world and other bailouts, that no industry is safe – not even the most basic of all human pleasures, porn.

Larry Flynt, as in the Larry Flynt, the publisher of such illustrious, world-respected and esteemed publications as Hustler and Barely Legal, has announced that the seedy world of pornography is feeling the pinch of the financial times (not the Financial Times – one doubts much competition in that regard), and – on behalf of the entire porn industry – is seeking a $5bn bailout from the federal government in the United States. Though one might assume the calls are being made with tongue firmly planted in cheek, it seems that Flynt and Joe Francis, a producer who is co-signing letters to the relevant parties, genuinely mean it – the industry is seeing dramatic falls from peak value of $18bn worldwide a few years ago.

Says the obviously-not-too-bothered Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

If porn producers are feeling the effects of what one wire service called “the sagging economy,” the pain might be felt most acutely in the San Fernando Valley. In 2007, revenue from more than 200 Valley-based adult-content companies was estimated at $1 billion. […]

Bruce Ackerman, president and CEO of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley, said: “I don’t think it’s a reasonable request — and I would say that of any of the industry groups (seeking bailouts).

“I don’t think you can laugh any of these requests off. I sympathize with any industry that needs help,” Ackerman said, noting that the adult-entertainment industry employs  thousands of people in the Valley. “But is it something the taxpayer should be burdened with?”

flyntWell, that’s the pertinent question. Should the taxpayer have to foot the bill? Much as it seems a crazy idea, it’s not as bizarre as one might instinctively think. Every industry needs a digout these days – should porn be treated any differently?

In the US sense, there’s no reason – other than morality – that pornography should be treated as a different industry than any other. Currently, American car manufacturers are beginning to reap the benefits of a taxpayer financial dripfeed approved by the lawmakers not long before Christmas. The argument put forward in its favour was primarily job-related: specific cities built on the automobile industry – Detroit a prime example – would crumble and shut down with the large-scale unemployment that would certianly ensue from an industrial meltdown. The public, it seemed, were happy to consciously overlook the mismanagement of the major auto firms that had left them in such dire straits and unable to compete with major foreign firms.

Porn can’t claim to have been mismanaged – it’s not as if there’s been some factories mjsmanaged by highly-paid CEOs who ignore responsibility to their shareholders. Nor, though, is porn subject to quite the same public concerns as the auto industry is: one could well have argued that, as the biggest pollutants in the most pollutant nation on Earth, American cars should perhaps have been let die away and suffer the brunt of their own careless practice. America drives enough Japanese imports to survive without its own native carmakers.

The other significant argument to make against porn receiving a taxpayer bailout is the classic one. It would be impossible to put a tally on the number of American taxpayers who would be disgusted at the thought of their funds going towards saving the pornography industry, but one assumes it would run into tens – if not hundreds – of millions. But saying that a taxpayer shouldn’t have to fund something they disagree with is a logic that simply can’t ever be applied. Given the option, the vast majority of publics worldwide would rather spend less public funds on things like art galleries – or politicians’ salaries (or allowances for being an Independent TD…) – and more stuff that the public would find more personable, like sports facilities.

Better yet, most people would probably prefer that instead of discretionary governmental spending on stuff they might find objectionable, a Government would refund any such income in the form of a tax cut or a rebate of some sort. Besides, in talking about objectionable spending, one could argue with 42,000 road deaths in the U.S. every year, there would be hundreds of thousands of families who would rather not have the Government fund an industry that has contributed to the deaths of loved ones – not to mention those who would argue against an auto bailout because a Government acting against climate change shouldn’t be subsidising the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Porn, whether many would like it or not, fulfils a pretty major role in developed, quasi-liberal first world societies. Flynt himself attests that “people are too depressed to be sexually active […] This is very unhealthy as a nation. Americans can do without cars and such, but they cannot do without sex.” While this might be a tad too excessive in stating the importance of pornography, the truth is that porn represents a valuable feelgood source for most western economies, not just that of the U.S., and that while Detroit may have ceased to exist without an auto bailout, the collapse of a $15bn industry – which simply must be responsible for tens of thousands of jobs – would have cataclysmic effects for the economies of Las Vegas and throughout California.

So should the porn industry get a bailout? President Josiah Bartlet would probably give the best answer.

Van Dyke: If our children can buy pornography on any street corner for five dollars, isn’t that too high a price to pay for free speech?
Bartlet: No.
Van Dyke: Really?
Bartlet: On the other hand, I do think that five dollars is too high a price to pay for pornography.

Written by Gav

January 8th, 2009 at 7:32 pm

Posted in Finance

Tagged with , ,

2 Responses to 'The Balls-out Bailout'

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  1. Porn is the reason there’s not a woman in the White House, us men love our porn but try not to shout about it, the man in the white house is protecting men everywhere.
    If a woman is reading this, HOW DARE THOSE SMUT PEDDLERS ASK FOR A BAIL OUT!
    I’m sure if they did a Wikipedia donation style thing there’s be a great a’rallying.

    Thomas Geraghty

    8 Jan 09 at 8:56 pm

  2. Haha… I can see the banner across the top of all the sites now. “A personal message from Internet inventor Al Gore”… or better yet, “You’ve needed porn… now porn needs you.”


    8 Jan 09 at 9:24 pm

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