Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one class of citizens to give to another.”     Voltaire

March 13, 2008

The Case For Legalizing Prostitution

by Doug Mataconis

Steve Chapman takes up the cause at Reason:

Outlawing this commerce serves mainly to make things worse, not better. It assures income to criminal organizations with long experience evading the law. It makes prostitutes vulnerable to abuse. It prevents measures to protect the health of providers and patrons.

It exempts an industry from the taxes and fees that legitimate businesses have to pay. It squanders police resources that could be used to fight real crime, while clogging jails and courts with offenders who will soon be back plying their trade.

Supporters of the status quo say the sex industry is filled with victims of human trafficking—foreigners forced to work in servitude. Whether such modern-day slaves amount to more than a tiny fraction of hookers, however, has never been proved.

Similar claims have been made about migrant farm laborers and domestic workers—which is not taken as grounds to ban fruit picking or home cleaning. Someone whose very job is illegal, in fact, is an ideal candidate for such exploitation, since she is unlikely to go to the cops.

But all this is secondary to the priority of human freedom. We no longer believe the government has a right to prevent homosexuals or heterosexuals from engaging in sexual practices. In 2003, the Supreme Court had the wisdom to strike down a Texas sodomy prosecution against two homosexuals caught in the act.


Some brilliant lawyer ought to ask the courts why the state may ban one type of sex between consenting adults but not another.

I agree with Chapman’s argument, but not with his suggestion for how to go about achieving it. The Courts have no business overturning laws against prostitution as this is clearly something that has traditionally fallen within the police power of the state. And they’re not going to do it any time soon.

In the long run, legalizing prostitution makes eminent sense, but it’s not going to happen by judicial fiat.

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  1. “The Courts have no business overturning laws against prostitution as this is clearly something that has traditionally fallen within the police power of the state.”

    You’re joking, right? Are you suggesting that Lawrence v. Texas was wrongly decided?

    Comment by KipEsquire — March 13, 2008 @ 1:52 pm
  2. I’m suggesting that when Court’s start acting like legislatures they begin overstepping their bounds.

    Do you really think that a credible Constitutional case can be made for striking down laws against prostitution ? Incest ? Polygamy ?

    And, more importantly, if the Court did do such a thing what do you think the political firestorm would be like ?

    And, no, I’m not saying Lawrence was wrongly decided.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — March 13, 2008 @ 1:57 pm
  3. What is “legalizaing”? Is that a process by which something is legalizaited? :)

    Comment by UCrawford — March 13, 2008 @ 2:18 pm
  4. Damn lack of a spellchecker :)

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — March 13, 2008 @ 2:46 pm
  5. Excellent point about the role of the Courts. I still contend that if abortion had been legalized state by state by the respective legislatures it would be no more controversial today, politically, than legalized gambling.

    Comment by Tony Iovino — March 14, 2008 @ 5:52 am

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