Prostitution: Legalize It

Prostitution (by and for adults, not minors) should be legal, in keeping with the libertarian principle of freedom for consenting adults to do as they wish, even if it’s immoral according to my beliefs. It should be free trade without big government intervention. Imagine person A offering to do something for person B, and person B offering to give something to person A in return. This is a voluntary interaction and should be legal. Then, person C (government, or anyone) comes in and says “no” and forcibly stops the voluntary activity because they think that they are the boss of everyone else. That’s how the prohibition of prostitution works, and in this case the something traded is sex and money. To forcefully violate the freedom of the traders is immoral. Besides that moral argument of freedom, outlawing prostitution has terrible effects on women because it forces that market underground where it becomes more dangerous and women are controlled by violent pimps and sometimes forced into sex slavery. And, legalizing it usually takes the STDs and drugs out of it. You may have good intentions by wanting to outlaw prostitution, but your intentions are worthless compared to real effects. Here is a good video by ReasonTV describing the benefits of legalizing prostitution.


2 thoughts on “Prostitution: Legalize It

  1. Tom,
    My question with this philosophy is what defines ‘damage’ (for lack of a better word) ? In the sense that in a libertarian society one cannot ‘damage’ another’s property rights. My example is, if there is a Married couple John and Sarah and Sarah decides to have a consenting affair with Zach (consenting between Sarah and Zach without johns knowledge) because Sarah is an adult free to make her own decisions is this legal? Or is it not because although nothing is physically damaged perhaps john feels their trust or relationship (which he feels is his property, such that an origanl thought May be ones property without being a physical thing) is damaged, what defines emotional and non physical damage and how is this protected/ or even looked into?

    • Good questions. First, see this post about marriage in general (it’s not just about gay marriage). “Marriage” should not mean anything to a government, so the fact that your example couple is married wouldn’t change anything (to a government’s view) from the case of a nonmarried girlfriend-boyfriend case. As far as I know, libertarians would think that cheating should be legal, generally. Any “harm” done during cheating is essentially hurting someone else’s feelings, and we believe that hurting someone else’s feelings should be legal, just like we believe it should be legal to call someone “stupid”. However, we do believe in voluntary contracts, and that the government should be able to enforce contracts with regard to property exchanges. So, regardless of whether or not a couple is married, let’s say that they each sign a contract saying that if one of them cheats, the other partner can be reimbursed in money or property (basically a prenuptial agreement). Contracts like this can still take place even if the government doesn’t “see” or define “marriage”. But, if there are no contracts in place, then cheating is nothing more than lying and hurting feelings, both of which should generally be legal, except that lying in trade should be illegal in some cases (such as fraud, which is a form of violating a trade contract, which is then a form of stealing). I should note that there might be some disagreement even among libertarians about some of the particular claims I am making. There are many variations of libertarianism, and I myself don’t know all of it.

      About the definition of “harm” or “damage”. This is a tough one. Generally, libertarians are focused on physical harm and damage. As to what constitutes “damage”, the dictionary gives a good definition: the reduction of value or usefulness of something. Now, the next question might be “how do you define a reduction in value or usefulness of something?”. But, then that definition game could go on forever. I will point out that, in choosing what kind of government system or laws to adopt, these same types of questions arise in each system. Even if we chose a big government system, we would still have to wonder what exactly constitutes harm. And, although libertarianism tries to organize its reasons, justifications, and laws as objectively and as clearly as possible without needing popular input, every system is ultimately made of humans, so the bottom line is that human interpretation and “reasonableness” will always have to decide certain matters since we do not have God directly governing these matters in a perfect and objective manner. This is unavoidable in human-run systems. Libertarians attempt to reduce uncertainty and ambiguity as much as possible, but it’s impossible to get rid of all of those completely. So, I’m saying that if there is a case where it is unclear about whether “damage” or “harm” has been done, I would defer to some judicial solution that probably involves a jury of peers to determine/interpret particular cases, something similar as we have today. Lastly, in addition to the definition of “damage”, “harm” would also include physical pain.

      It’s interesting that you brought up the issue of intellectual property. As far as I know, there is disagreement among libertarians on whether or not nontangible things can be considered “property”. I don’t know enough about it to make a decision right now. I plan to simply be patient and later study the matter a lot and then make up my mind much later.

      Well, you sure did a good job of highlighting a lot of areas that I’m not sure of. But, remember that just because I myself do not have all of the answers to some tough questions, that doesn’t mean that other libertarians greater than I don’t have good answers for you. I suggest you spend about 10 years studying libertarianism and political philosophy from the masters, and then you will be equipped to make a solid decision, because, unfortunately, that’s how difficult some of these questions are.

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