The comments on “Should Prostitution Be a Crime?” (New York Times) are interesting. Generally the Times readers, at least the ones whose opinions are featured, admire virtually everything about Europe. Single-payer and/or government-run health care? The French can do it, so obviously so can we. Tuition-free public universities? Denmark does it, so obviously so should we.
Prostitution is apparently legal in England and Germany and decriminalized in Denmark. Could the U.S. learn from these countries’ experiences, either positive or negative? Apparently not. Reader comments, at least the highly rated ones, don’t generally mention these rather significant examples. (The article itself does mention some foreign countries where the laws are different, but the readers don’t seem to be interested in these experimental results.)
I think it is interesting that Americans, or at least Times readers, imagine that it would be straightforward to choose the best and then import a complex bureaucratic system such as government-run health care, but that it would be impossible or uninteresting to choose then import the most successful system of regulation for what happens between two individuals. Americans are like Europeans when they’re running a hospital or a university, but are completely different after hours?
[Separately, I wonder if it is our fondness for legal process that keeps us from legalizing prostitution. We seem to like it when lawyers can get paid every time college students or co-workers have sex. See “Lincoln Center President’s Abrupt Departure Was Prompted by a Relationship” for how $1200/hour lawyers were brought in after two co-workers at a non-profit org had sex:
To investigate, Lincoln Center enlisted outside counsel — Jeffrey S. Klein, chairman of the employment litigation practice group at Weil, Gotshal & Manges.
Although the inquiry determined that the relationship had ended by the time Mr. Bernstein was confronted and that it appeared to be consensual, the sources said, it violated Lincoln Center’s policies about senior management dating subordinates. The organization declined to provided a copy of the policy.
Lincoln Center officials confronted Mr. Bernstein, who agreed to resign and was paid a sum of money according to the terms of his contract, which are confidential.
Perhaps there should be a tax on sex. Given our socialized systems of criminal justice, medicine, etc., those who are abstinent are paying a high price to support the costs of cleaning up (legally and medically) after those who are not abstinent. Abstinent students pay higher tuition to support university-run kangaroo courts that decide whether or not to expel students who’ve had sex. Abstinent citizens pay Obamacare taxes to provide medical treatment for those who have contracted sexually transmitted diseases. Abstinent citizens pay taxes to support criminal prosecutions that follow sexual encounters (see Missoula for what it must have cost the taxpayers to investigate the activities of two college students behind a closed door). Abstinent employees and shareholders pay for corporate investigations such as the above (Mr. Bernstein and his ladyfriend had some fun; Mr. Klein billed enough to pay the property taxes on his house in the Hamptons; the rest of the workers at Lincoln Center got what?).]
- stagehands at Lincoln Center’s Metropolitan Opera earning more than $500,000/year back in 2011
- “Paid Maternity Leave: Employers or Taxpayers should Pay?” (i.e., should childless workers subsidize workers with children?)