January 30, 2014
career in government? Skip healthcare, welfare, transportation, and education. For
job security, consider joining the battle against sex trafficking.
From D.C. to
state capitals to local police stations, greater attention and resources are
being devoted to what the
FBI calls “the fastest-growing business of organized crime and the
third-largest criminal enterprise in the world.” Politicians and bureaucrats have
launched the usual responses: public hearings, press conferences, blue-ribbon
commissions, task forces. Policy prescriptions are proliferating, too: tougher sentences
for perps, the creation of special courts, fresh surveillance tactics for cops,
the severity of the problem in order to garner coverage in a
hyper-saturated media environment. But regardless of the accuracy of their data,
anecdotes about “the most common form of modern-day slavery” (again, the FBI) can
be harrowing. That’s why it’s unfortunate that the people who claim to care
so intensely for sex trafficking’s victims ignore a powerful tool to combat the
government’s blessing in Columbia, Senegal,
But unbeknownst to many Americans, turning tricks is legal, regulated, and
taxed in a few developed nations -- most notably, Greece,
Germany, the Netherlands, and parts of Australia. (Bonn, The New York Times reported in 2011, “has begun collecting taxes
from prostitutes with an automated pay station similar to a parking meter.”)
Late last year, Canada’s
Supreme Court unanimously ruled that its country’s rules regarding prostitution
were “grossly disproportionate,” and ordered Parliament to craft a coherent correction.
by foreigners’ enlightenment and open-mindedness? It’s not necessary to look
abroad to find “fallen” women operating on the right side of the law.
In 1970, a rural county in northwest
Nevada, just outside Reno, adopted a brothel-license ordinance. The
following year, legislators in Carson City set
policy for the entire state. Casino pressure ensured that prostitution remained
verboten in Sin
City’s Clark County, but
out in the sticks, the locals could decide for themselves whether to permit (quoting
“house[s] of ill fame or repute.” Some do, some
thinks about the morality of the services Nevada’s two-dozen cathouses offer, the
regulatory structure enacted more than four decades ago has functioned
health officials test prostitutes monthly for HIV and syphilis, and weekly
for gonorrhea and Chlamydia. After 15 years of studying the industry, Barbara G. Brents, a UNLV sociologist, “found no
evidence of trafficking” in Nevada’s
brothels. Furthermore, “employees … feel safe, are free to come and go, and are
bound only by their contract. … Workers report that they felt safe largely
because the police, employers and co-workers were there to protect them.”
In several Nevada counties, bordellos
generate a significant amount of tax revenue. (Lobbying by rural commissioners contributed
to the failure of Harry
Reid’s February 2011 demand that brothels be banned.) Kate Korgan,
another UNLV sociologist, documented that the businesses “are amazingly
integrated into their communities,” sponsoring sports teams, community
cookouts, and 4th of July parades. Owners belong to civic organizations and
often run for office.
brothels end sex trafficking in America?
Of course not -- there will always be powerless females and predatory pimps.
But a supply-side response promises to yield far more progress than crackdowns.
Would men looking to “party” prefer a dingy dive with hookers of dubious
health, or an up-to-code, debit-card-accepting pleasure dome staffed by working
girls who are regularly evaluated by medical professionals?
The answer is
obvious. But not to the “enemies” of sex trafficking. You’ll search in vain for
a conference or publication on the subject that explores the legitimization of
prostitution, much less recommends it. An unlikely alliance between the religious
right and feminist left forestalls the libertarian perspective.
disappointing oversight. While Nanny Statists remain a scourge, the cause of
personal liberty has notched big wins in modern times. The 18th
Amendment was repealed. Richard
Nixon ended conscription. Interracial relationships
are no longer prosecutable. Attempts to censor Internet content consistently
fizzle. The right-to-die
movement is strengthening. In Washington
weed is allowed. Most Utahns now
support medicinal marijuana. Isn’t it time for cities, counties, and states
to rethink the demonstrably unsuccessful criminalization of prostitution?
“Commercial affection,” as
Mel Tillis put it, may not be humanity at its best. But as is the case with
alcohol, drugs, gambling, and pornography, prohibition is ineffective, breeds
black markets, and creates incentives for expensive, limitless meddling by government.
never been, is not, and never will be rare. But it can be made legal, and thus,
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.
# # # # #