There are, as everybody knows, various degrees of slavery, from the brutal chattel-and-chains variety, to indentured servitude, to that which isn’t official but which binds its victims to their bread and butter. Since slavery runs the gamut, there are greater and lesser degrees of evil associated with it. Some for instance are now arguing that slavery, especially sex slavery, under Islam wasn’t (and wouldn’t) be so bad, and wasn’t (and wouldn’t be) really worse than a bad marriage.
Hold that and consider this argument. First premise, a tautology: if a thing isn’t morally bad, then it isn’t morally bad. True, yes?
Second premise: That which is not morally bad, is morally good, or at worst morally neutral. Also true.
Third premise: If a thing is morally neutral, and especially if it is morally good, then it would be neutral or good for society to promulgate it. True, too.
Inference or clarification: by promulgating I mean publicly supporting, perhaps funding or even teaching children in official schools; I mean the opposite of suppressing or proscribing. The level of support would of course depends on the costs and total benefits. So here I only mean promulgating in at least the weakest sense on not condemning.
Conclusion: If a thing is not morally bad, then ceteris paribus, it would be morally good or neutral to engage in or approve of others engaging in the thing.
The ceteris paribus is a requirement because suppose we consider jogging a moral good, we wouldn’t then say for a 101-year-old man with broken hips that it would be morally good for him to jog.
Okay, let’s try an example. If sodomy isn’t morally bad, then sodomy isn’t morally bad. Must be true. And so, since sodomy isn’t morally bad, it follows that it should be supported or engaged in by members of society, and even taught to children. Like with the jogger, the ceteris paribus would warn us about the dangers in the act (if any) and precautions to avoid these dangers, but we would not and could not forbid the act and must at least not disapprove.
That was an easy one. Let’s do prostitution. If prostitution is not morally bad, it should be legalized. And if it is legalized and not morally bad, then it follows it would be an acceptable profession. Of course, there are always ceteris paribus considerations, but at the least it is not wrong for prostitution to exist, and it is good for the government to support prostitution.
First paragraphs from a story in the Telegraph from 2005 (that cropped up again recently):
A 25-year-old waitress who turned down a job providing “sexual services” at a brothel in Berlin faces possible cuts to her unemployment benefit under laws introduced this year.
Prostitution was legalised in Germany just over two years ago and brothel owners — who must pay tax and employee health insurance — were granted access to official databases of jobseekers.
The waitress, an unemployed information technology professional, had said that she was willing to work in a bar at night and had worked in a cafe.
She received a letter from the job centre telling her that an employer was interested in her “profile” and that she should ring them. Only on doing so did the woman, who has not been identified for legal reasons, realise that she was calling a brothel.
Under Germany’s welfare reforms, any woman under 55 who has been out of work for more than a year can be forced to take an available job — including in the sex industry — or lose her unemployment benefit. Last month German unemployment rose for the 11th consecutive month to 4.5 million, taking the number out of work to its highest since reunification in 1990.
Now I have no idea of the veracity of this report—though the article goes on to document more incidents—nor do I know whether the law on this matter has changed since 2005. But. Since the German government has declared prostitution not to be a moral bad, prostitution is a morally acceptable profession; and since the law requires people (and not just women) to fill acceptable professions when offered or lose their benefits, it is not wrong for the government to insist the ex-waitress turn to prostitution.
If there is a flaw in this argument, it is with the first premise. Right, libertarians?
So what about slavery? Well, assuming the first premise is flawed for prostitution, then (assuming this law is still as reported), then in Germany there is a weak form of sex slavery.