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Spinning the war on the UK's sex trade

Step one, inflate the size of the problem

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Lenin's phrase about "useful idiots" comes to mind. Almost as asides, these two snippets show the level of informed debate going on:

"I am willing to accept that there are women out there who say they have chosen to sell sex, but they are in the minority, and laws are there to protect the majority."

That's our Home Secretary, stating that the rights of minorities don't matter.

"This reflects the situation in Nevada, the only US state to legalise brothels, where the illegal prostitution industry is currently nine times larger than the legal one. The fact is that anywhere that liberalises prostitution quickly becomes a prime destination for punters - many more pimps will set up business there than are legally approved."

That's Julie Bindel, one of the campaigners. She seems not to realise that it is counties in Nevada, not the State, that legalise. Indeed, that it's the rural, almost unpopulated, countes that have, with it still being illegal in Las Vegas and other big cities. That an industry is larger where there's hundreds of thousands of people instead of three and a cow really shouldn't be a surprise, legality or no legality.

Right, so, we've managed part one of our plan then. We've managed to take a vile and thoroughly disapproved of (and already illegal) but small problem, sex slavery, and expand it massively. This gives us the opportunity to hoodwink the public. What next then?

And widen the offence...

Well, why don't we make it even harder? Let's add that "controlled" part as well, as one of the things that makes the purchase of sex illegal. A tart might be controlled by a pimp, so let's make that a crime! That being a pimp, living off immoral earnings, already is a crime won't deter us. What we're going to do is insist that the purchaser of sex from a woman who is controlled by a pimp is criminalised. Sadly, this also shows a dismal lack of knowledge of the dismal science. Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame:

"Our analysis also sheds light on issues of organizational form. Perhaps surprisingly, in two of our neighborhoods that are side-by-side, prostitution activities are organized along completely different models. In Roseland, there are no pimps and women solicit customers from the street. Just a few blocks away in Pullman, all women work with pimps who locate customers and set-up tricks, so that the prostitutes rarely solicit on street corners. Under the pimp model, there are fewer transactions, but the prices charged are substantially higher and the clientele is different. Prostitutes who work with pimps appear to earn more, and are less likely to be arrested. It appears that the pimps choose to pay efficiency wages. Consistent with this hypothesis, many of the women who do not work with pimps are eager to work with pimps, and indeed we observe a few switches in that direction over the course of the sample."

Indeed, when those pimpless prostitutes found that the researchers were also studying pimps there were a number of requests to get hooked up with one.

It would seem then that the relationship between a pimp and a prostitute is therefore an economic one and frequently a voluntary one at that. The pimp is working as part agent and perhaps part protection, the first allowing the tart more efficient use of her time. She can be performing tricks instead of looking for them, the pimp handling that part for her (or, given the lower number of tricks, doing something, anything, else other than standing on a street corner). Not dissimilar to politicians using press agents, say (I'm allowed to make that joke as I work as a press officer sometimes).

Isn't that a clever second part of our plan? We're going to make working as a tart worse, more difficult and less financially rewarding, all in the name of protecting the working girls.

But that's how we make law nowadays. We throw in a few demons (Sex slavery! Pimps!), lie about either their frequency or their activity and hope we've fooled enough of the public so that we can get the new measures into the Statute Book before anyone notices.

Forgive me reiterating the point that I'm a classical liberal, but wouldn't you prefer not to be ruled this way too? If we just stuck with the point that consenting adults can do as they wish as long as they don't harm either the person or the rights of others to do as they wish?

It's either that or hope for something different from the next set of politicians, but I wouldn't think that that is much of a hope. Once the political class has worked out how to do this sort of hysteria-mongering they're not going to stop. All that will change is what the hysteria is mongered about. ®

Tim Worstall knows more about rare metals than most might think wise, and writes for himself at timworstall.com, and for The Business and the Adam Smith Institute, among others.

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