Friday, December 15, 2006

Moral dilemmas

Free Marketeer or 21st century blackbirding?


Those crazy libertarians over at Samizdata once quoted a line (or possibly even coined it) about prostitution:

Prostitution is a combination of sex and the free market; which are you opposed to?

It's a poser really. The cop-out answer is surely that, provided prostitutes are genuinely choosing, unco-erced, to sell their bodies, then it is a transaction between consenting adults, harming no-one outside the transaction and, as such should not be criminalised.

But is it as simple as that? Is it the case that legalisation and regulation would put a stop to the abuse and trafficking of women? It is a fact that a significant proportion of the prostitutes in this country are here against their will, held in what amounts to slavery. Can it be right to legalise prostitution if that means the tacit acceptance of effective slavery?

The problem I have here is that a visceral 'squick' reaction is making rational analysis difficult. I can see the argument that says that legalisation would be, in fact, the best way of sorting out some of the grosser abuses, but there's definitely an irrational opposition.

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