Sin Business, is Good Business

In 2004 a 6-pack of beer would set one back about R25 to R30, today an average 6-pack of the same beer is about R28 to R34 (a less than 2% increase per annum). Considering that Trevor Manuel raised taxes on alcohol, the price of power has increased (thus increasing production costs) and that there is a compulsory warning campaign (i.e. alcohol reduces driving ability) that is supposed to deter people from consuming large amounts of liquor, SABMiller has still recorded good profits. Now beer can barely be seen as a product that patrons consume mildly and with discipline. Reality still dictates that large quantities of this miracle product be consumed for satisfaction. Now any sane being would consider opening a beer hall as a viable business to make quick and stable money. If one ignores the legal technicalities involved in getting a liquor licence in order to start this kind of business, initial capital can be as little as R600. Not surprisingly many business men and women across South African townships have opened these beer halls, without liquor licenses, in their tens of thousands. So next time you drive through a township know that only a few of the many liqour stores are legally licenced.

Since freedom of speech and movement have long been proved to be beneficial if they don’t infringe on the rights of others, the American pornography industry has been blessed with profits that blow the likes of Microsoft’s earnings to smithereens. While one might never see Playboy topping the magazine charts, it is well established in the top ten. One might never see pornography websites receiving visitors at the level of the likes of Google, YouTube and but, as an industry they are still amongst the most visited sites globally, (yes, even in China where internet is heavily firewalled)). BBC journalist Louis Theroux took it upon himself to investigate just how deep and dark the industry’s secrets went. He realised that, just like most secctors in the entertainment industr; there was casting, a bit of focus was required (mainly to get it up) and then it was lights, camera, action and finally cash. Of the actors he interviewed he found that money was the common factor that made people sign on. This is true as well for Playboy which has a large support from American college girls who want all those easy dead presidents. The actors get a good amount of money, so does the film crew, the shop in which they sell and even the distribution company. That’s a good business. Just wondering when entrepreneurs locally will catch on to that and take FHM and Sports Illustrated to a new level.

With that said one must consider the disgusting dimensions of sin business. Human trafficking and child labour for sweatshops and sex work is a niche in this industry that those with a conscience as active as Hitler’s have taken advantage of. While our favourite brands of clothing may be seen as coming  straight off the runway, produced from exotic fabric to our wardrobes,this is unfortunately an illusion. Thailand, Indonesia and Taiwan have sweatshops for Polo by Ralph Lauren, Nike and Adidas. If you don’t mind getting frowned upon by activist groups, then maybe paying your employees below poverty standards (1$ per day) to produce clothes and sneakers for a corporation that not only refuses to give back to the community but actively pursues child labour you might be on to a good business idea.  Considering that 4 of the top 20 global billionaires are from the family that owns Wal-Mart, who have a similar strategy in terms of exploiting their employees, maybe shutting down from your conscience in the pursuit of wealth is profitable.

The list of sin businesses is massive, from the debate concerning the legalisation of weed due to the economic prospects it presents, to the large amount of money the American government has invested in the war on terror and  the arms industry. With more being invested in defence than any other sector of government, currently the industry is flourishing. If you a have a construction company (i.e. Halliburton), a friend who has the power to start a war (maybe G.W. Bush) and another who has a company training soldiers for the most extreme terrains of battle (say Blackwater U.S.A.), you stand to make lots of money. This requires a lot of connections and the possibility of preaching that killing 1 Iraqi soldier per 6 civilians is progress.

While other forms of business are hit and miss, with good management sin businesses seem to always come out tops. Is it possible that we have become a world of drunkards, prostitutes, child molesters and murderers? Or is it that we have been so fixated on being conservative, projecting an image of self- righteousness that we don’t recognise that sin business may just be good business?

Bank tellers are hot, human trafficking is not.

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