June 02, 2004

Now that the financial services industry has successfully implemented systems for detecting money laundering and terrorist financing, it's time to use that same technology to combat other illicit activities that leave a financial trail.

Consider the multibillion-dollar pornography business. As a result of electronic media, an increasing percentage of those dollars flow through the banking networks. Compared with the thorny problem of figuring out whose dollars fund suicide bombers, it would be child's play to build a national database of consumers whose viewing habits make them likely to be in possession of obscene materials exceeding community standards.

After ratcheting up obscenity prosecutions around the country and getting tough on smut peddlers, the federal government can then extend the asset forfeiture laws to encompass those who possess illegal pornography with the intent to distribute. The resulting seizures would help the government pay for critical policy initiatives without having to raise taxes. Banks would simply need to do their part by flagging suspiciously prurient transactions, using the infrastructures they already have in place.

Instead of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, we'd be taking from sinners to fight Osama, or auctioning off Neverland to calm Fallujah. To be sure, much of blue-state America might come under new ownership before things settled down. But the society we create would reward those who embrace what St. Augustine of Hippo called "the chaste beauty of Continence in all her serene, unsullied joy" over those "in the midst of a hissing cauldron of lust."

At the same time, we should crank up the heat in the cauldrons overseas. Instead of hounding Howard Stern off the air, we could broadcast his radio show live from Baghdad. Combine that with airdrops of government-issued medicinal marijuana, along with free iPods loaded with gigabytes of Hendrix, The Doors, Steve Miller and the like. That should drive a wedge into the anti-American contingent, no?

One way or another, let's wrap up this whole global insecurity mess before I get around to procreating.

ischneider@cmp.com

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