Posts tagged ‘prostitution’

Scandal for Engaging in Legal Activity

The Secret Service prostitution scandal in Columbia is interesting.  My understanding is that prostitution is legal in the particular area where this occurred.  So in effect we have a scandal here about engaging in a legal activity.  Things that would convert this to an actual scandal in my mind:

  • The officers were on duty, or were on call in some way that there are rules about what they can be doing which they violated (in which case I would be more worried about the drinking)
  • The call girls were hired with taxpayer money  (it is only legal to give taxpayer money to corporate whores like Solyndra, not Columbian whores).  Bobby Patrino might have survived the adultery scandal if he hadn't paid her with his employer's money.

The most likely issue is one  of representation.  "You can do whatever you want on your own time, but not when you are representing us."    As in most scandals, the biggest crime will turn out to be bringing negative attention to one's employer.  With which I can sympathize.  If these bozos brought negative attention to me when they were travelling on business representing me, I'd fire them in a second.

Which gets me thinking that I could easily get sued for doing so.  I am pretty sure I don't have a rule in the employee manual that says you can be fired after getting in the papers for haggling with prostitutes.    Even though common sense says that by embarrassing the company they are putting their jobs at risk, common sense does not rule the legal world of employer law.   In my experience, the whole legal process is tilted against the employer, with the presumption being that the employer is a rapacious asshole firing people for no reason unless proven otherwise  (you are saying your employees are "at will?"  I laugh at your naivete).   The employee would just say that there was no rule against getting negative publicity for hiring prostitutes on a business trip and that their activity was entirely legal where it occurred.

Since it is entirely unlikely I will add a morality clause to our employee manual, I think I will add something about actions that bring harm or disrepute to the company.

Keep Your Law Off My Body, err, or Maybe Not

Massachusetts liberals up the penalties for women (and men) using their bodies in ways the government does not like.   Proving once again that the women's groups' motto, "keep your laws off my body," was in fact a fake libertarianism, aimed at exactly one thing -- abortion -- and nothing else.  Those on the Left who mouthed this slogan seem to be A-OK with regulating consensual sex, salt and soda pop consumption, access to medical procedures, health care choices, etc.

Also, this seems to be yet another law that purports to promote women's rights by treating them like they are ignorant rubes unable to make the smallest decisions for themselves.  The implicit assumption in the law is that all prostitutes are in the profession solely due to male compulsion.  This is consistent with a certain philosophy among feminists that all behaviors of women with which they don't agree are not due to a normal excercise of free will by people who simply have different preferences, but are due to some sort of enslavement by the patrimony.

But one high-priced online hooker said she’s no victim — and she doesn’t know any women who are.

“If you are an escort, you go into it of your own free will,” she said. “Absolutely no one is forced into doing this. You don’t have to be affiliated with any agency. I’m not forced to do anything I don’t want.”

What’s more, the new law’s focus on johns, she said, will hurt her lucrative-though-lawless trade.

“If that’s the law that’s been written, then yes, it’s going to impact business,” she said when read the new penalties.

There is no doubt that some women get into situations where they are abused or forced into work or have a large portion of their earnings taken.  But this tends to be a result of the profession being underground, giving women no legal recourse when they are abused and defrauded.  If one really is worried about women's working conditions, the best thing to do is legalize prostitution, instantly giving them access to the legal system to redress wrongs.

Backpage and Sex Workers

A while back I criticized the notion that Backpage was somehow responsible for murders because one guy in Detroit identified his victims from Backpage ads.  I argued that Conservatives trying to take down Backpage adult ads ostensibly to make sex workers safer should look in the mirror, given that most of the reason sex workers are at risk is because Conservatives have driven their profession underground.

Jacob Sollum at Reason had a similar take the other day

Far from helping victims like Baby Face, prohibition forces the entire market underground, making it harder to enforce the distinction between minors and adults or between willing and coerced participants. Prohibition forces prostitutes to work in dangerous conditions, picking up customers on the street or covertly connecting with them online, and makes it harder for them to seek legal remedies when they are cheated or abused. These hazards, similar to those seen in black markets for drugs and gambling, are not inherent to the business of selling sex; they are inherent to the policy of using force to suppress peaceful commerce. Since these dangers are entirely predictable, prohibitionists like Kristof should be reflecting on their role in perpetuating them, instead of making scapegoats out of businesses that run classified ads.

Blaming the Phone Book

Local Conservative Greg Patterson blames the death of several sex workers in Detroit on the Backpage, because the killer may have targeted them based on their ads in that periodical.

The killers are the ones who should be held responsible, but what about parties whose negligent actions facilitate the killing?  How about the example of a school with poor lighting, or the business with lots of bushes in which bad guys can hide?  There are plenty of cases that show the property owner would be liable for the intentional torts of others.

So New Times knows that Adult ads are used by bad guys...even to the point of murder.  Craigslist stopped accepting these ads after a similar incident and New Times picked up the business...at a considrable profit.  So can they be held accountable for the deaths in Detroit?  I would argue that they can be.  What about future deaths?  What happens if New Times continues to accept adult advertising and someone else gets killed?  Actionable?  I would say yes.

This is exactly the sort of spurious liability logic Conservatives tend to mock, except of course when it involves a target it does not like.  In this case free market Conservatives really hate Backpage for accepting freely placed ads for free exchange involving consensual sex.  I responded in the comments:

Why do you cast so far afield for an analogy in your third to last paragraph [the one above about schools with poor lighting]? Why not take a directly parallel example - what if some killer were stalking Starbucks barristas whose work places he identified through ads in the Republic or via Google Maps? Would you really run around in circles blaming Google? This is like saying that a serial killer is facilitated by the phone companies because they publish the phone book the killer used.

We are talking about ads placed via free exchange for consensual sex. Yes, in our bizarre society, Conservatives who nominally support all other types of free exchange have had this one sort banned. But it is ironically the very fact that this sort of consensual commerce is illegal that makes this work so dangerous. Escorts/hookers are vulnerable to abuse, crime, fraud etc. precisely because they have less ability to access the legal system for redress.

If you want to discuss who facilitated the death of these women, let's talk about those who drove their profession underground.

Libertarians as Corporate Whores

I am amazed lately as the left has tried to pitch libertarians as corporate whores, taking certain small-government positions because they have been paid off by Koch or Exxon.

I can understand how this charge might bite for Democrats and Republicans whose positions tend to be a hodge-podge of individual liberty and state control (and which seem to morph back and forth depending on which team is in the White House).  When there is no consistent, temporally stable philosophy that drives political positions, then it might be appropriate to look at other factors that might drive a public stance on an issue.  If, for example, I had always supported tight regulation of corporate market share, one might wonder why I defend Google against anti-trust scrutiny and reasonably look for other motives.

But as a libertarian, I consistently support market solutions over government regulation.  On this site I have supported the right of hair threaders and interior designers and real estate agents and casket sellers to ply their trade without government permissions.  I have supported legalization of gambling, marijuana and narcotic sales, and prostitution.

So why is it that I can plow along trying my best to be a consistent advocate of individual liberty, without a hint that I am in the pay of hair threaders or hookers, but as soon as I write on, say, natural gas fracking I am in the pay of the Koch brothers?  This strikes me as the lamest possible argument.

On this blog, think of me as sitting at a roulette table and always betting on black  (yes, the house will eventually win but welcome to the world of being a libertarian in modern statist politics).  Spin after spin I bet black.  Imagine a couple of folks walking up and seeing me place my next bet on black.  Why do you think he did that?  Was it because the last number was a 6?  Or because three of the last five were red?  No guys, it's because I always bet black.

Of nearly all the political groups, libertarians should be the most transparent.  We always side with individual liberty, and searching for other motives for these positions is generally futile.

Who's Your Daddy

My column this week in Forbes is on Steve Levitt's daughter test.

There are lots of things that are legal, and should stay legal, that I don’t want my daughter participating in.   I don’t let my daughter hang out at the mall without an adult or have a video game console in her room, but other parent’s make different choices.  I think prostitution should be legalized but certainly hope my daughter does not become a hooker.  On the other side of the equation, I grew up drinking modest amounts of alcohol in the home with my parents (ie wine with dinner), and feel strongly this pays benefits later in life in the form of more rational approaches to alcohol, but I am legally barred in Arizona from taking this sensible parenting approach with my kids.

Oh, and by the way, as a word of advice to Mr. Levitt:  While you may be happy to see your daughter as a future poker champion, or you may want her to have the option of an abortion, a large portion of America thinks that your daughter making these choices is roughly equivalent to shooting heroin or engaging in prostitution, and they are going to try to ban them, and maybe even put her in jail for doing so.  In your theory of government, your hopes and dreams for your daughter rely on being able to out-vote folks who have very different hopes and fears.

This flawed view of government thrives in Washington because it neatly reinforces the ego and hubris so characteristic of politicians.  It essentially calls on 535 people in Congress to substitute their judgment for that of ordinary Americans on a zillion different questions, large and small.  Because in reality, Mr. Levitt’s philosophy of government plays out not as the government banning what I think is wrong for my daughter, but what Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner think are wrong for their daughter’s.

The Problem with Polls

I have no particular problem with this post from Kevin Drum where he would like to see some different polling questions about the Ground Zero mosque (though I do think they reflect some naivite about the founders' intentions in building the mosque, as telegraphed pretty strongly by its proposed name).  I think the underlying desire to raise awareness about how small changes to poll question wording can make big changes to poll outcomes is a good one.

Here is my problem with all polls like this.  Consider the question

Do you oppose construction of the Ground Zero mosque?

How I answer this is influenced by the unstated intent of the poller or whomever is paying for the poll.  That is, the answer is likely be used as justification for some government action, in this case confiscation of the property rights of the owners of the land by not allowing them to do with the land as they wish.

In this nanny state of micro-fascism, we have a very hard time separating opposition to something from be desirous of government intervention.  For example, I oppose teenagers spending all day watching crappy TV and playing PS3 games rather than reading.  I oppose overcooked steaks.  I oppose people who take forever in buffet lines, selecting one leaf of lettuce at a time.  I oppose airplane bathrooms that smell bad.  I oppose using "incent" as a verb.  I oppose writers who have really long passages without paragraph breaks.  I oppose commenters who constantly harass me about my horrible proof-reading rather than just getting over it and accepting that I suck.

However, in none of these instances would I advocate government action.  Now, of course, I go further than most, in that I also oppose government action in any number of more controversial activities that I also personally oppose but would never ask to be banned, including prostitution, meth use polygamy, driving without a seat belt, and pulling tags off mattresses.   So a better question would be:

Do you oppose government action to block construction of the Ground Zero mosque?

I Think You Have Me Confused With Eliot Spitzer

An email inquiry I received today:

I am a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel in Florida. I need a comment for a story on prostitution.

I actually think there is an organization with 'coyote' in the name that is more active on this topic, so I presume that was the source of confusion.  Not really sure how my wife would react to this inquiry.  However, since we are on the topic, I have written a couple of rants supporting the legalization of prostitution.  In short, I think there is a good case to be made that most of the abuses of prostitution result from its illegality (and therefore lack of ability of its participants to call on the legal system for help).  While one may find prostitution distasteful, the government should protect our bodies and our wallets from assault rather than worrying whether we are tarnishing our souls. 

Minimum Wages and the Supply and Demand for Labor

In a post that is a nice follow-on to this one about wages in trucking, Russel Roberts has a nice post about people making minimum wage:

According to Current Population Survey estimates for 2006, 76.5
million American workers were paid at hourly rates, representing 59.7
percent of all wage and salary workers.1
Of those paid by the hour, 409,000 were reported as earning exactly
$5.15, the prevailing Federal minimum wage. Another 1.3 million were
reported as earning wages below the minimum.2
Together, these 1.7 million workers with wages at or below the minimum
made up 2.2 percent of all hourly-paid workers.

Correcting for higher state minimum wages, but also adjusting for illegal immigrants (who are a special case with super-low bargaining power) and factoring in salaried workers (who by law to be salaried have to be making much more than minimum wage) one still finds that less than 2% or less make minimum wage, about half of whom are under 25.  Roberts has a follow-on post with comments from Tim Worstall to say that even this number may be too high:

Unfortunately, on the page he's taken his information from he's missed one thing which makes his case even stronger.

Nearly three in four workers earning $5.15 or less in 2006 were
employed in service occupations, mostly in food preparation and service
jobs.

That's your waitron units and barkeeps folks. And what do we know
about people who do these sorts of jobs? Well, perhaps you have to have
actually done them (as I have, everything from the graveyard shift in a
Denny's to tending bar around the corner from this guy's
place): they all make tips. In fact, so much so that there is (or at
least used to be when that BLS report was prepared) a special minimum
wage for those in such jobs, one lower than the official Federal
minimum wage.

For example, way back when, the min. wage was $3.35 an hour. Waiters
got $2.01. You didn't really care because even serving pancakes at 5 am
you made another $25-$30 a shift ($50-$150 in a decent place). Barkeeps
got $3.35 plus tips.

The BLS numbers are reporting what employers paid employees, not
what people are actually earning. So we might in fact say that while
the number being paid the minimum wage or less is 2.2% of the workforce, the number actually earning that figure is more like 0.5%.

As an aside, speaking of bargaining power, it strikes me that prostitution is an excellent example of supply and demand in labor markets trumping government mandates.  Prostitutes have absolutely no power to run to the government for help over minimum wage or work condition violations.  They have only limited power to get government help even when they are the victim of violence from those who pay them.  But on an hourly basis, the most succesful make far more than most Americans.

Dave Barry was Right about Having Sex with Dogs

In a really funny interview, Dave Barry lamented that the first argument he always heard against being a libertarian was that in a free society, "everyone would have sex with dogs."  Among other funny stuff, he said:

I got a few letters, mostly pretty nice. One or two
letters saying, "Here's why it wouldn't work to be a libertarian, because people
will have sex with dogs." Arguments like, "Nobody would educate the kids."
People say, "Of course you have to have public education because otherwise
nobody would send their kids to school." And you'd have to say, "Would you not
send your kids to school? Would you not educate them?" "Well, no. I would. But
all those other people would be having sex with dogs."

He was right!  Here is Sean Gleeson, via Glen Reynolds, arguing that libertarians are wrong, because they ... wait for it .. will allow people to have sex with animals.

These pro-bestial arguments are disarming to any honest and consistent libertarian. Even Instapundit Glenn Reynolds allows
that he's "got nothing against" bestiality, explaining "since I'm happy
to eat animals it's hard for me to consider people having sex with them
to be, you know, more exploitative."

That's because libertarianism is fundamentally wrong.

The worthiest argument against bestiality is not that it is "cruel," nor that it is "exploitative." It is that it is a violation of human dignity.

Bestiality
is so very wrong not only because using animals sexually is abusive,
but because such behavior is profoundly degrading and utterly
subversive to the crucial understanding that human beings are unique,
special, and of the highest moral worth in the known universe"“a concept
known as "human exceptionalism."

Within the
narrow blinders of libertarianism, laws can only be justified by appeal
to an unconsenting victim. Human dignity has no place in the
libertarian worldview, and the libertarian is left with no basis to
outlaw what he calls "victimless crimes." Prostitution, polygamy,
pornography, incest, drug abuse, bestiality, and a host of other
crimes, being consensual, must be legal, and that's that.

And
this is libertarianism's greatest failing. The libertarians happen to
come to the right conclusions on a great many issues of policy, and I
am happy to ally with them on those issues. But libertarianism is not
an adequate theory of governance.

By the way, just so all of you can think less of me, I have no problem legalizing prostitution, polygamy,
pornography, incest, drug abuse, and bestiality involving consenting adults (kids, who by definition are not legally capable of making adult decisions, are a different legal matter).  Here for example is my rant on legalizing prostitution.  Here is my favorite ode to Polygamy.  Here is my summary post on letting individuals run their own damn life.

When people come to tell you that it is OK for them to use coercion and force against you, but only to protect you from yourself, or even more nebulously to protect your "human dignity," run away screaming.  Here is a bet:  Give me absolute dictatorial powers but limited only to things I could justify as "protecting human dignity" and I would have a full-bore fascist state built by the end of the week.  Because that phrase can freaking mean anything at all.  And it is always, always, always the person who makes such statements who envisions themselves (not you our me!) defining the terms.

I am not sure what my "dignity" is or where it rests, but please, as long as I am not hurting anyone else, leave the protection of it to me alone.

Free the Hookers

The other day, I saw Coyote Blog grouped into a category of "conservative blogs".  I know a lot of folks tend to immediately shorthand free market economics to "conservative", but I bristle at the tag, particularly given the knife sticking out of the free economy's back right now with Republican finger prints all over it.  Therefore, I have decided that it is time to take one of those wildly unpopular libertarian stands that will help ensure that I don't get lumped in with Pat Robertson any more, while simultaneously guaranteeing I will never be able to hold elective office or survive a Senate confirmation.

For some reason, perhaps because of the recent Hollywood movie on the topic, there seems to be a lot of talk and concern in the press about white slavery and forced prostitution.  To which the general legislative response is "Let's crack down on prostitution".

The reason women get used and abused in the prostitution trade is because the trade is illegal, not because we aren't tough enough on it.  If a woman working at Wal-mart has part of her pay stolen by her boss, or is required to pay sexual favors to hold her job, she has legal recourse, both to the police and to civil court.  In fact, walking into an attorney's office and declaring "I work at Wal-mart and my boss forced me to have sex and stole my pay" would likely result in her becoming a millionaire some day.  On the other hand, a prostitute today who walked into a police station and declared "I work as a prostitute and my boss stole my pay" would likely result in her arrest.  Women get abused precisely because their trade is illegal, giving them no real recourse to the legal system.  Making prostitution legal would give thousands of abused women their first chance ever at freedom from their tormentors.

I think the time is right to revisit the subject of legalized prostitution.  America, for all the talk of a Republican-led theocratic state, has continued to relax itself on enforcing moral norms between consenting adults.  Forty years ago, the majority of Americans opposed legal homosexuality, legalized gambling, and even interracial marriage.  In many states, even tattooing was illegal.  Today, though we still suffer through some tortured ethical logic (e.g. gambling is moral as long as it is on a boat but not on land) these practices are legal in many parts of the country.  Its time to recognize that consensual sex between adults should be legal in all its forms, including those forms where money is exchanged.  By the way, speaking of bizarre ethical logic, today, in most states, exchanging money for sex is illegal EXCEPT if the act is filmed and the film is distributed widely.  Then the sex act for money is no longer prostitution but is pornography, which while frowned upon by many is generally legal.

Interestingly, feminists tend to be split on this issue, in part because feminists tend to split into at least two camps.  The first camp is the libertarian-feminist, who honestly want to empower women, and who try to be consistent to the "women should be able to make decisions for her own body" argument used in abortion and which leads them to support legalized prostitution as well. I can imagine these feminists saying "Hey women out there, if men could
make $500 an hour having sex, does anyone doubt that it would be legal?"

The second camp is the sort of uber-gender feminists, whose agenda is more about molding all women into their idealized female.  These feminists, who seem to control many women's organizations today, have created a whole new kind of morality that women must follow, a morality that seeks to ban breast implants since they are a trivial pandering to male aesthetic norms and to keep prostitution illegal because they see it as degrading to women.   These women use the language of choice in their abortion politics, but they are more about a new form of master-gender (rather than master-race) fascism.

By the way, when I say "free the hookers", I really mean free them.  Several countries in Europe have partially liberalized prostitution, but have reported there is still a lot of sex industry underground.  The reasons is that these countries have applied typical European economic policy to the fledgling industry, meaning they regulated the crap out of it.  Specifically, they tend to put extreme licensing requirements that artificially limit the number of people who can perform the trade legally, much like New York artificially limits the number of cab medallions.  And they get the same result as with cabs in New York - a large gray market is created, and the benefits of bringing the industry out in the open are thwarted.  More on the problems with licensing here and here and here.

Libertarians are Generally Not Moderate

Today, as linked by Hit and Run, the Washingtonian lists a number of blogs that are popular with journalists.  I have no particular problem with the list -- I read many of the same blogs myself.  However, this description of the libertarian blog at Reasons's Hit and Run struck me as odd (emphasis added):

The libertarians behind Reason magazine strike back with
moderate commentary on a variety of topics ranging from public
television to Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl."

I am not sure that many Republicans or Democrats would consider Reason to be moderate.  Its hard to believe that any of us anarcho-capitalist make-government-and-taxes-go-away libertarians would ever be confused with moderates.  Reason has in the last month taken stands against the drug war, against any government intervention into property rights, against the Patriot act, in defense of steroid use, and favoring legalization of prostitution and continued legality of pornography.  Not many red-staters or blue-staters would call that moderate.  It may be consistent, in that it is against statism and for the primacy of individual decision-making, but libertarianism tends to be extreme and uncompromising in these views.  And, while most libertarians are not moderate, most moderates are not libertarians -- those who generally call themselves moderate tend to do so because they pick and choose bits of statism from both political parties. 

But there is an explanation for the word "moderate", and it goes back to the crappy civics lessons we all have gotten.  As I wrote before, those civics lessons were the statist's wet-dream, portraying the range of political thought on a linear scale from socialism on the left to fascism on the right.  In other words, our political choices are defined as running from statist control to... statist control.  In this framework, anyone who is not a commie or a Nazi are put somewhere in the middle, which has been shorthanded "moderates".

This is obviously a stupid framework, and breaks down when libertarians come into the picture.  More modern self-assessment frameworks use grids of at least two dimensions, with at least one dimension being the degree (from none to total) that one accepts state authority over the individual.

Update:  Oops, I missed the fact that some of the Reason writers themselves had much the same reaction

Why do People Back into Parking Spaces?

OK, since I am car-blogging tonight, I will tackle another critical and substantive automotive topic.  Why do some people back into parking spaces?  And further, why are a large percentage of the people who back into spaces driving pickup trucks?  Here I am talking about backing into perpendicular spaces, like at the mall, not parallel parking.  Also, I am not talking about parking at a busy sporting event, where I often back in so that I can more easily pull forward into the inevitable post-gram traffic.

Backing up is at least 10 times harder than going forward.  Just try to drive a straight line backward - you will probably look like someone who is DWI. 

So lets think about parking.  When you are pulling in, you are generally going from a wide area to a very narrow area.  When you are pulling out, you are conversely going from a narrow area to a wide area.  If you did both of these forward, just to make things apples and apples, I think most people would agree that pulling in to the space is much harder than driving out.  So why do people do the harder move (pulling in) the harder way (backing up)? 

I have only had two people even try to give me an explanation for this.  The first was that they had read that most parking accidents happen pulling out of spaces, which is probably true.  But this is sloppy analysis.  I would argue that most accidents happen pulling out because people are backing up.  I would restate this stat as most parking accidents happen when people are backing up.  If everyone backed into spaces, most parking accidents would probably occur pulling in.  The second person told me that "this is how his dad always did it".  That explanation I buy.  I have found a lot of small habits like this that people stick by all their life stem from the way one of their parents taught them.

The only other advantage I can come up with is that backing in / pulling forward out might be safer in very busy lots where pedestrians and cars are constantly passing across the space and there is some danger of backing into them pulling out.  This may be, though I still see people laboriously backing up into narrow spaces at my office, where there is zero traffic in the parking lot.  And none of this explains why pickup trucks do it so much more often than sedans.  I would think that pickups would especially want to head in , since this leaves the bed accessible.

Update:

Parking_lot

In the picture below, note the one car that is backed in along the line of perpendicular spaces at the bottom - a pickup!

Update #2: LOL - getting more comments on my parking lot observation than my post that questioned why drugs and prostitution were illegal.  I guess I may be finding my niche in the blogosphere.  Parking blogging.  Anyway, thanks to all the backer-uppers out there for the comments.  I have come to the conclusion that maybe I am just a bad driver in reverse.  If I tried to back into a space between two cars, I would probably scratch a car a week.  I do understand that at least that does not hurt anyone, while backing out can indeed hurt someone, particularly small hard-to-see kids.  (By the way, I will think the best of my readers and not assume they are attracted by one other benefit of backing in -- that if you back in and hit a car, it is likely unoccupied and you can make a run for it; if you hit a car backing out, it will be occupied and you are busted).