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Legalize Prostitution

Posted By Don Boudreaux On August 8, 2013 @ 11:05 am In Nanny State,Seen and Unseen | Comments Disabled

Here’s a letter to the New York Times:

Lauren Hersh proposes to stop the sex trafficking of underage girls by having the demand for prostitution “eliminated” (Letters [1], August 6).  This proposal is fanciful.  The world’s oldest profession is precisely that because the demand for commercial sex is eternal.

Here’s a better idea: legalize adult prostitution.  If men can legally buy sex from women 18 years of age or older, men will have less demand to patronize children.  And sex entrepreneurs will have less incentive to ‘supply’ children.  With all prostitution being illegal, those who demand as well as those who supply commercial sex are subject to prosecution regardless of the age of the women they patronize or employ.  By making adult prostitution legal, however, not only will that trade become more open to public scrutiny, but also the ability of those in the commercial-sex market to avoid prosecution simply by patronizing and employing women aged 18 or older will likely dramatically reduce incentives to turn young girls into prostitutes.

Recognizing that the likes of Anheuser-Busch and Jack Daniels do not peddle their legal substances to children, while suppliers of the likes of marijuana and cocaine do peddle their illegal substances to children, suggests that legalizing adult prostitution would go far toward protecting children from being lured or forced into the sex trade.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
and
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

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