Hate to Say I Told You So

My 15-year-old, more libertarian incarnation’s endorsement of Bill Weld in the 2006 NY gubernatorial contest is looking mighty prescient now ain’t it?
On a more serious note, the end of Eliot Spitzer’s career is, I think, I good thing for all involved. He wasn’t, as Chris Bowers claims, a potential president (I don’t even know that he’s more progressive than Clinton or Obama, as Bowers cavalierly asserts). He was a pretty standard crooked pol, the type who orders the state police to track his political opponents. He had no business in the governor’s office, and after the blatant hypocrisy involved in this scandal he certainly has no business there now. As Scott Lemieux says, if impoverished street walkers get thrown in prison because of laws Spitzer supports, then he damn well better too.
One good thing that comes out of all this is a serious discussion of public policy and prostitution. It’s my natural inclination to oppose any and all laws interfering with one’s personal, and in particular sexual, autonomy; generally, if it’s consensual I don’t want the government involved. But Emily Bazelon and Brad Plumer make compelling cases that the Swedish model – no punishment for the women, lots for the johns and pimps – produces the best outcomes. Now, there are some caveats to be had here. There isn’t good data, and lots of anecdotal interviews suggesting that this has just pushed the business underground and made pimps more violent; even if the system is better on balance, as Brad says, “if Sweden can barely manage it, good luck putting anything like that in place in the United States.” What’s more, this approach is backed by Catharine MacKinnon, which should set off alarm bells, as Catharine MacKinnon is the Worst Feminist Ever. For now, faced with murky evidence, I’m inclined to stick with principle and support full legalization and regulation, but it’d be nice if more social science was conducted on the matter.

2 thoughts on “Hate to Say I Told You So

  1. I don’t see any compelling case in either of these articles that Nevada has made any serious mistakes compared to these other countries. Licenses, weekly STD testing, no street prostitution. What’s the objection?
    Okay, there is the “gray market” argument. I have trouble believing that robust regulation is really too difficult for the state. Maybe an overly permissive mentality might set in. It hasn’t happened in Nevada, though.
    To be sure, Nevada still has a problem with unlicensed prostitution in Las Vegas (which does not have the licensed version; you have to drive to another county). It’s clear how it arises: Female drug addicts who can’t compete with legal prostitutes instead undercut them on price. I can see a lot of sense in Sweden’s policies for this side of prostitution in Nevada. The clients should be prosecuted, the prostitutes themselves should only be offered help.
    So in deciding between the Nevada solution and the Swedish solution, the best answer could be to do both.

  2. Funny how the Republicans are so quick to start impeachment over something like this, when more serious offenses involving the nation’s security, abuse of power, or domestic spying don’t warrant impeachment.

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