Russell and Duenes

Get the Government Out of Marriage? And Prostitution?

with 2 comments

I’ll throw a question out there to those who say that state governments should get out of the business of regulating marriage because such regulation allegedly has no positive effect on human behavior. Should state governments also get out of the business of prostitution? After all, it will have no effect on what I do. I mean, I’m not going to change one iota of my behavior because a state government allows prostitution, so why not just get state governments out of it and allow people like me, who want to avoid prostitution, to do so, while allowing others to engage in it? They’ve done it in the Netherlands.

But has it turned out to be so benign in the Netherlands? Has legalized prostitution had no effect on the people of Amsterdam? Does legalized prostitution really have no negative effect on human flourishing there? Are things the same or better because the state no longer regulates prostitution in Amsterdam?



Written by Michael Duenes

August 2, 2012 at 3:48 am

Posted in Duenes, Ethics, Government

2 Responses

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  1. I think there are two questions that need to be answered whenever the federal government wants to outlaw something. First of all, does it have the right to do so? Secondly, will such a law have a net positive effect?

    One way to answer the first question is to consider the powers of the federal government enumerated in the constitution. I think the states certainly have the right to outlaw something like prostitution, but I don’t think the federal government does.

    Also, do we think the state has the right to stop people from doing what they want when they aren’t hurting anybody else? Should we outlaw all sinful or unhealthy behavior? Most would say we should not. But what sins should we outlaw? And who defines what is sinful? Junk food? Adultery?

    As for the second question, the net positive effect is not so easy to determine, either. I’ll bet Prohibition caused fewer people to drink alcohol, which may have prevented some alcoholism, but it also gave rise to the criminal black market that arose to meet the demand. That criminal market was violent, and many people were killed, including innocents, in the process of supplying and fighting the black market. And people’s livelihoods were impacted- those who made or sold alcohol before it was illegal now had to find something less appealing, according to their own judgement, or they would have been doing it in the first place. Was it worth the expense and violence to enforce prohibition? I don’t think so.


    August 2, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    • Bates, thanks for posing the question regarding what sins governments should outlaw? Do you have any proposed answers to your own question? I’m not saying this in a “gotcha” kind of way. I often ask the question you pose, but struggle to find a criteria for answering it. Do you have a criteria?

      How do you define “not hurting anyone else?” Does adultery really “not hurt anyone else?” I think a strong case can be made that adultery is a sin that hurts others worse than just about any sin, short of murdering another person. It’s far worse that, say, embezzlement.

      I agree with you that there are many things that states are allowed to regulate, but that the feds may not.

      But people can also drink without hurting anyone, truly. Adultery and fornication cannot claim the same in any way, shape or form. So how does one analyze the difference between prohibiting all alcohol consumption, including having a small glass of wine with dinner, and committing adultery.

      Finally, I don’t believe that the Constitution’s enumerated powers are the ultimate arbiter of what a federal government has a “right to do.” There is a law that is higher than the Constitution. The “necessary and proper” clause of the Constitution gives Congress a good bit of discretion to enact laws beyond what is specifically enumerated. The reason we murder over a million of our own children each year is because the Constitution says we can, apparently. That’s an enormous problem.


      russell and duenes

      August 3, 2012 at 9:24 am

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