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Posts Tagged ‘prostitution’

I came across this interesting news article today about how liberal prostitution laws are encouraging young Swedes to make a short trip to Denmark.

In Sweden paying for sex is a crime punishable with a possible six-month jail sentence or a hefty income-linked fine. Perhaps the worst penalty for errant Swedish males is the official court summons addressed to the family home; an embarrassment that has ruptured many marriages. In Denmark, by contrast, prostitution has been decriminalised.

[…]Denmark, proud of its tolerant traditions, has allowed the hippy colony of Christiania to flourish in the heart of Copenhagen since the 1970s. Now Swedish teenagers are taking taxis over the bridge, stopping off at the settlement, stocking up on marijuana, and driving back home.

The true flashpoint is prostitution. Nothing better highlights how the model Scandinavian societies are now at odds over the correct road to Utopia.

Of course Denmark is no libertopia. It’s personal income tax rate is among the highest among developed nations.

However, in this un-free world, the libertarian dilemma is not where one finds freedom but where one finds the freedoms most important to him or her. In my view, paying a little more tax but getting extensive personal freedoms as well as almost complete freedom of speech is a good bargain. Thus, I tend to think of countries like Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland and Iceland as more libertarian than the USA. The first three of these also have strong laws that favor the right to die and to refuse treatment.

On the other hand, I have given up all hopes about France and England, which are getting more Orwellian every day.

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Britain, where prostitution is now legal, wants to turn back the clock and criminalize it again. And like the Swedish, they have taken a bizarre but politically correct position — it will now be illegal to pay for sex but legal to sell it.

As Home Secretary Jacqui Smith put it:

Basically, if it means fewer people are able to go out and pay for sex I think that would be a good thing.

Never mind the fact that you are preventing consenting adults from engaging in an activity that should be no one else’s business.

Smith’s statement also implicitly accepts the proposition that if something is ‘good’, the government ought to force it by law. This assumption is sadly, rather widespread, and goes to the heart of my post from yesterday. The basic premise of libertarianism is that while there may be various levels of ‘badness’, most of them do not qualify for state censorship. The personal is not the political. The moral is not the legal.

It’s funny how governments worldwide share a common disregard for individual liberty and a collective disrespect for reason in their glorious lumping together of the illegal, the immoral, the bad, the unpopular, the merely unpleasant and the illogical. Or maybe it is not so funny.

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What does Ethiopia, Senegal and Turkey have that the US doesn’t?

The right to engage in consensual sex for money.

For a list of the legal status of prostitution in different countries, check this nice fact sheet. The oldest profession in the world is legal in most of South America, and virtually all of Europe. Keeping the US company, on the other hand, are countries like China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Cuba, Uganda (and sadly, India).

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Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called D.C. Madam, killed herself last week. She was due to be sentenced soon for offences related to an elite prostitution ring she ran from 1993 to 2006. In her suicide note addressed to her mother, she wrote:

I cannot live the next 6-8 years behind bars for what both you and I have come to regard as this ‘modern day lynching,’ only to come out of prison in my late 50’s a broken, penniless, and very much alone woman.

At the top of the suicide note were the instructions:

Do not revive. Do not feed under any circumstances.

In the note to her younger sister, Bobbie, Palfrey expressed her love and told her to “be strong for mom.”

“Also, you must comprehend that there was no other way out, i.e., ‘exit strategy,’ other than the one I have chosen here,” she wrote. “Know I am at peace, with complete certainty, I believe Dad is standing watch – prepared to guide me into the light.”

It is worth noting that Deborah’s impending prison time — that drove her to suicide — were for offences related to nothing less, and nothing more, than helping consenting adults engage in consensual sexual activity for money.

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