Legalize prostitution?

As anyone who has read these pages more than once or twice – all six of you – might know, I have argued before that the criminalization of prostitution makes little sense. Charles Cooke takes up the argument in, of all places, the pages of National Review:

If your political philosophy requires the micromanagement of all individual behavior as a means of achieving established societal aims, then you will presumably find little wrong with the status quo in this area. (Here, the progressive Left forms an unholy alliance with the moral majority.) But if you are of the view that republics are supposed to maximize the liberty of the individual and to privilege its protection above the vagaries of national schemers, then perhaps you might reconsider your position. (And with rather more finesse than did Nassau Country, N.Y., one hopes.)

The law of contract, which is the bedrock of liberty, has already been diluted enough in the West. There is really no good philosophical justification for forbidding a prostitute and a “John” — “Jane,” sometimes, too — from entering into whatever victimless agreement they so wish.

As it did with its fight against alcohol and has begun to do with its war on drugs, the United States should recognize that its attempt to eliminate prostitution has been a failure. “Legal” does not equal “moral,” and it never will, but a move by the states to legalize and regulate the practice may help to take the industry out of the hands of criminals and to allow regulation of what is, frankly, an inevitability. As Reason’s Jacob Sullum argues:

The black markets created by such edicts are dangerous places characterized by fraud and violence, in contrast with the honesty and peace that tend to prevail in legal versions of those very same markets. Contrast the prostitution business in New York and in Nevada, or the booze business before and after December 1933.

Read the whole thing here. For what its worth, I find Cooke’s arguments compelling for the reasons I have previously posited. I a glad to see that a so-called “mainstream” conservative journal such as National Review would allow one of ts withers to post such wild-eyed radical views. 

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One Response to Legalize prostitution?
  1. John Day
    July 21, 2013 | 10:26 am

    When we hear about the “legalization of prostitution,” what the speaker more accurately means is the “decriminalization of prostitution.”
    I question the assertion that Pennsylvania today truly criminalizes prostitution. Police departments make virtually no attempt to enforce this so-called “crime” so it’s unclear why we call prostitution a crime when police departments don’t care about it.
    The PA legislature could easily find 10,000 more significant issues to work on.