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March 14, 2008

Working Girls

The editors of The Economist induct soon-to-be-former Governor Eliot Spitzer in the "Hypocrite's Club" as a "diamond member":

[Spitzer] is a hard man to defend. He was the most self-righteous politician in America—which is saying something—and an arrogant bully with it. If anybody deserves the opprobrium that is being poured on his head this week, following the New York Times's revelation that he has a taste for expensive prostitutes, then it is Mr Spitzer.

I have no opinion on this. Really. There's only so much I can care about or have an opinion on at any given time and I've decided not to devote scant resources to having an informed opinion on, by all accounts, a world-class momzer like Spitzer.

So far, so what? Then the folks at The Economist add this to mix:

Defenders of America's tough laws on prostitution argue that it goes hand-in-glove with many other forms of crime (sex-trafficking, drug-trafficking, gangsterism). But surely this is an argument for focusing on those heinous crimes rather than trying to prevent an activity that is as old as human society. Besides, if prostitution were not criminalised, the victims of such abuses would feel much less wary of going to the police about them.

Here's the thing: there is scant-to-no evidence from anywhere it has been tried that legalizing prostitution does anything to reduce the exploitation and abuse associated with the activity. Sure, the handful of legal brothels in places like Nevada may be free of overt and criminal abuses but that only reinforces the point: they're a handful of brothels. They're easy to regulate and police. There's no evidence that prostitution on a mass scale can be free of abuse and exploitation. And if you legalize prostitution, that's exactly what you are going to get: prostitution on a mass scale.

Another point that evades the libertarians at The Economist is that many of abuses stem from the tawdry and degrading nature of the activity itself and not a failure of policy. People look down on other people who sell their bodies for money and treat them accordingly. Every proposed counter-example, e.g., French courtesans, Japanese geishas, etc., involve women whose primary relationship to men wasn't solely about sex. Yes, they slept with their "clients" but it wasn't "put the $200 on the nightstand and drop your pants." They were more like mistresses. A man can respect his mistress. He can even pay some heed to the needs and feelings of the one-night stand. Not a hooker. She, by definition, is a means to an end. And not just men: women who aren't hookers don't respect hookers, either. They (rightly) ask "isn't there some other way you can make a living?"

Ross Douthat makes a related point about the "self-degrading and abusive" nature of prostitution. Reading his commenters, I want to ask these brave libertarian souls: "Okay, what would you do if your daughter, sister, mother, etc. decided to become a hooker? Would you 'affirm' her 'choice'?"

Crap-a-hula like The Economist's is yet another example of the complete erasing of the boundaries between the commercial and the rest of life. Increasingly, the only prism we have by which we view the world is the economic. As Leon Wieseltier recently wrote in the New Republic:

This society is surrendering not to economics but to economicism, which is what happens when economics settles where it does not belong. The popularity of Freakonomics and of that idiot Gladwell is evidence of this epidemic error. These days there is almost nothing more heterodox to be said about American life than that there are vast realms of it in which economic reasoning should have no place.

While I like Malcolm Gladwell a lot, Wieseltier is right about the rest. Yet, judging by the deafening silence most Christians seem to be just peachy with "economism." Maybe it's the price we pay for all of the great things we've gotten from our alliance with the GOP.

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Comments

LeeQuod

In the other posting from Gina, http://thepoint.breakpoint.org/2008/03/inside-the-worl.html , the quote indicates that this scheduler had noticed after only three years on the job that A lot of these girls deteriorate" into using drugs.

1. Would we hold, say, the plumbers' or electricians' union accountable for a large percentage of its members becoming drug addicts due to the trade itself?

2. Apparently the prostitution industry fuels the drug industry. So by keeping prostitution illegal, we help to fight the drug wars.

And finally, Democrats read New Republic?!??!!? Or is this some kind of "Fun Friday" joke from Gina? :-)

Matt

I don't think Nevada is a fair comparison for an example of legalized prostitution, perhaps Germany would work better? What's the situation like there?

Kari

Actually, studies seems to suggest that the greater the expectation there is of purchasable (particularly cheap) sex, the MORE human trafficking, rape, abuse, and government corruption exist. See Thailand as an excellent example. Or any of the excerpts from the UN.GIFT Vienna Conference.

Better trained police forces trained to recognize prostitution rings and to protect victims would do much more to slow the problem.

Steve

Then there are all the unforeseen and unmeasured effects of prostitution: long term psychological impact on the prostitute, public health implications, impact on the customer's present or future family.

There was a debate raging over at NRO this week between the moralists and the libertarians. It's easy to come up with arguments why prostitution should be legalized and some of them are difficult to logically refute.

Some things are just wrong. We know it and should not always feel compelled to justify it. Technically, there is no verse in the entire Bible explicitly prohibiting prostitution, but it repeatedly speaks of it in disparaging terms.

Like Chuck has been saying for decades, and many before him, there's a law that is written in our hearts. Let's all take a moment to be thankful that at least the courts have not taken this one over yet. It may only be a matter of time. Unelected judges have allowed our society to be flooded with pornography and consigned a generation of youth to the abortionists.

Arguably, there is no more critical issue in electing our next president than what judges he (she) will appoint.

Grizzly Bear Mom

Sex with other than one’s spouse is prohibited in Deuteronomy “an unchaste woman brings shame on her father’s house”, regardless of whether the woman is paid for it. The penalty is stoning. In 1967 the Catholic Church warned that the birth control pill would reduce all women to prostitutes by increasing fornication, adultery, sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, illegitimacy, and divorce. Despite contraception, 1/3 of children are born illegitimate, and 25% of girls have sexually transmitted diseases. In the past men used to court a women in her familie's parlor to demonstrate to her father that he was loving, good provider. (The father had the wisdom to discern the caller’s true intentions-they had better be marriage. I know my grand dad rejected some of my aunt’s boyfriends.) Now that women complete with each other there is no incentive for men to be faithful and highly employed. I think that the lack of men in higher education demonstrates this, as does the high rate of sexual immorality even in the church.

Steven Barrett

By all measures of common decency, Roberto Rivera's comments about the increasing usage of economic excuses to justify some of the worst forms of human exploitation, (should) draw forth heaps and howls of shame directed at the libertarian advocates of such amoral folly.

Incredulously enough, Alan Dershowitz, who's made a career and comfortable cottage industry for himself by standing up for the rights to equal justice for all, turns a blind eye to the sufferings and sometimes beyond unimaginable violations of human dignity suffered by so many women, young girls and young boys in the prostitution racket and called it a "victimless crime."

How can a crime be "victimless"? Simply by lying to oneself, humanity and God.

Although I just loved Mr. Rivera's closing line about the GOP, he could've just as well widened his net to include so many apathetic others who simply want to be left alone and not have to worry about anything beyond their immediate concerns.

Unless of course, they have to have their eyes opened and their hearts ripped apart upon learning that one of their immediate family, extended family member, friend, even a past loved one, somehow got pulled into that increasingly pervasive evil racket.

We've put dollar signs on almost everything lately. As a former reporter, I'm disgusted at how many pieces of information that were once open to the public without charge have been farmed out to so many companies using a clever version of bait n' switch advertising techniques. "Free information" dries up rather fast on the web. Civil libertarians (with some gall) might argue that this helps to protect the privacy of individuals, when in fact it doesn't since all you need to do is start paying at the next level of your research for what you were lead to believe was free in the first place. (Not all web-based information companies use the .com tag. And it isn't always reliable since I found myself still listed at an out-of-state residence I long left more than a quarter century ago! So much for the much vaunted efficiency of the private sector.)

Sometimes while investigating a person's past, one might come across a website notation including the person you're looking for's name linked with a certain crime or perhaps series of related offences. Hopefully, if you open that particular site, you won't risk tapping into one using "spyware" or "malware" designed ostensibly for "marketing purposes" because then you risk frying your computer or somebody else's. Of course this should raise many red flags, but you dare not push any further without going to local law enforcement first.

So, even that could up negative because its information made its way into the "free market" system. They can give you a cursory check into what you have, but no more and a suggestion that you check in with Lexis/Nexis to bring up old newspaper archives, which still might be lost. Beyond this advice, they can't touch this at times without getting into trouble. Believe me, however, they are on our side on this matter. Strapped as many happen to be, many law enforcement agencies wouldn't mind citizens having more genuinely free access to old newspaper stories, arrest records, and other matters of open court proceedings.

I've also worked as a former deputy clerk of a US District Court in New England, and a probation/parole officer in the South. When you're arrested, you lose your right to (complete) privacy. What happened is public and shouldn't remain in the hands of a few to sell to those with means, especially when that information can also be used to help save and restore once-destroyed, self-or otherwise, human lives.

What's pointedly ironic about this is the continuing harps, cries, whines and howls from freemarketers for less government intrusion into our private lives, whilst they keep their yaps shut and eyes and hearts closed to the damage they are causing to so many lives by allowing once public information to be used as commercial fodder in ways not even the most venal bureaucrat would employ: and all for a certain market value.

Not only have we commodified human flesh for sex in ways lately that would blush even past whoremasters, we've even managed to "privatize" any clues we could possibly obtain to help bring people out of this bondage, out of reach.

What if you're a relatively low-paid worker, whose daughter has been missing for quite some time and all you can afford to use is a "free" web-based site to try and track your child down -- and you have to use the library? Oh, but what about local law enforcement? Well, what about it if its budget has been sliced to the bone due to "taxpayer revolt" cutbacks? Hooker crimes, naw, that's not worth looking into, right? Try telling that to the parents and other loved ones of this "victimless crime."

Rest assured that any law professor at Harvard Law School or elsewhere with more financial resources and inside networking skills wouldn't have to face nearly as much heartaches in finding a lost child or somebody else he or she cared for. There are no guarantees against learning the ultimate loss and tragedy.

But the Dershowitzes and the many other well-protected, well-paid, and well-established people who can't bring themselves to see just what a widespread tragedy this and how deeply we've commodified our basic rights, may never understand the deepness of the pain caused by so much commodification of flesh for starters; unless God forbid they join the ranks of so many other people left wondering "what on earth happened?"

I certainly don't wish harm for Alan Dershowitz or like minded people on this issue regarding prostitution, which he sees as "victimless." I just pray that he and all and any others associated with it in one way or another, as even a mild defender, will some day see their error. (In this group I also include the owners of "escort services," brothel owners, neighborhood house pimps, street pimps - both male and female - and "customers." And, while I'm at it, those other usual side-entrepreneurs, drug pushers, esp.the meth speed dealers.)

I'm writing from experience on this. Sadly my trail to just learn if an old friend is out of that racket, and safe from harm has come up empty. But with knowing this person's circumstances have been delivered through my prayers into our Lord's hands, I can at least rest assured I gave it a try. Had it been a related child or young adult, God knows what an emotionally empty basketcase I might've become. And on this, I can imagine there are plenty of parents sharing this very same lament and never ending worry.

So long as we keep on closing our eyes and hearts, not to mention our wallets, regarding our basic obligations as moral citizens to pay higher taxes, if necessary, to fund more agencies to fight this scourge, we might as well start taking a kinder look at Judas. After all, his price was only thirty pieces. Poor Judas had at least a bothered conscience for selling Jesus out only once. We sell Him out for more and do it more often, all in the name of "saving hard-earned tax dollars."

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