Prostitution: Why Government Isn’t The Answer!
Editorial by Jeff Hunt
In the past, when I have argued the case for the decriminalization of prostitution, “morality” has always been the greatest hurdle.
This is a good thing!
If people were not moral I would be afraid to leave my home, so it is fortunate that most people are moral.
Most people wish to live peaceful lives with one another and tend to frown when they see an injustice.
Those people recognize the hazards associated with prostitution, both for the prostitute and their client. It is people’s general concern for their fellow man which prompts them to shun prostitution.
That’s why it’s very important for me to address the “morality” of prostitution before making an argument for its decriminalization. I want to make it very clear that this article is not intended to argue the “morality” of prostitution, but only to lobby for its decriminalization.
There are many activities which much of the population would consider immoral, yet are perfectly legal. For example, many (not all) Christians believe it to be immoral to get divorced. Yet, divorce is perfectly legal in this country. Likewise, there are many that6 believe gambling to be immoral, yet many States sponsor their own game, in the form of a lottery. Gluttony is also considered immoral in many religious circles, but as it stands today you are perfectly free to stuff your face with as much chocolate cake and red meat as your heart can take.
Using the force of government to alleviate the problems associated with prostitution is not the answer; it causes even more problems than it solves.
Governments do not operate like non-profits. Governments do not make suggestions to individuals on how to live their lives, nor do governments provide support groups or outreach programs where people can go for help; rather they use coercion in order to force people to comply.
When the police prosecute individuals for the crime of prostitution, what happens? These individuals are either sent to jail or fined heavily. Either way their lives become ruined. In the case of imprisonment, family structures are destroyed, often times beyond repair.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding the case, an individual could be slapped with a permanent criminal record which would make it increasingly diffi cult for them to get a decent paying job later on in life. Clearly the inability to obtain such a job greatly inhibits an individual’s chances of becoming a productive member of society.
Furthermore, as resources are poured into the enforcement and prosecution of non-violent crimes such as prostitution, fewer resources are then available for the enforcement and prosecution of violent crimes, such as rape, murder, robbery, etc.
Remember, we live in a world of scarce resources. It is only logical that every resource that is spent on the prosecution of prostitution crimes must be a resource that has been diverted away from the prosecution of other, more violent crimes.
I believe you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who believes that government enforcement of prostitution laws in any way reduces the prevalence of prostitution within a society. Keep in mind that prostitution is very commonly referred to as “the world’s oldest profession.”
We’ve lived with governments in our society for a long time and clearly they’ve done nothing to alleviate the problem of prostitution. So, what is the answer?
Think back to the era of Alcohol Prohibition in the 1920’s, although I’m sure there won’t be many of you who remember those times, but you can certainly read about it in history books and watch documentaries.
One of the things that you will notice about those times was that crime was rampant. This makes perfect sense. If governments pass a law which makes
peaceful citizens now criminals, then effectively all you’ve done was to create, out of thin air, a whole new "criminal” class.
In order for the government to deal with all of these new “criminals” it has just created, it must arm the police force and build more prisons in order to house all of these new "criminals.”
It is no coincidence that during Alcohol Prohibition we saw the birth of the Mafi a as we know it today. The social ills associated with prostitution (crime, disease, etc.) are only enhanced by government involvement.
During Alcohol Prohibition there was a sharp increase in the number of health problems associated with alcohol consumption. Because it was illegal to purchase or consume alcohol, no consumer-level manufacturers would go into the business. Therefore, there was an increase in the amount of alcohol which was produced on the black market. Since there was no quality control, no one could be quite sure about the purity of the alcohol they were ingesting.
This is very much the same situation we have with prostitution today.
If prostitution were allowed to be handled by the free market, there would certainly be quality control, which would mean far fewer sexually transmitted diseases.
Just think of a restaurant. If you knew that the local fast food place on your block had gotten three people sick from salmonella poisoning last week, are you going to eat there anymore? Also, if prostitution was brought into the free market there would be no need to “sell it” on the street. ! is situation creates a much healthier environment for not only the prostitute and their client but also for the community at large.
The solution for the social problems caused by prostitution is simple; remove the government from the equation.
Homeowner associations already have strict codes regulating what activities are acceptable within the local neighborhood. The same goes for business and property developers.
Do you really think that the St. Johns Town Center is going to allow a brothel to open up on its property?
Of course not, the public outrage alone would force nearby shops to close down. The problems associated with prostitution can be handled peacefully; there is no need to involve the government.
Remember, government is force.
That is all they know how to do. Whenever you turn on C-SPAN or even watch your local City Council meeting, all the legislators are doing is voting on whom to point the gun at.
It is my argument that individuals operating voluntarily with one another are better capable of handling the issues surrounding prostitution than governments are, who only know how to use force in order to solve their problems.
Jeff Hunt in the former Chairman of the Duval County Libertarian Party. This editorial first appeared in the May 2010 edition of The Jacksonville Observer Monthly.