So shifty Senator Harry Reid--a man who only owes his job to the fact that his opponent in the last election was a raging nutjob--has now decided that the best way to improve Nevada's struggling economy is to outlaw prostitution. Normally I'd dismiss out of hand any economic opinions coming from an architect of the 2009 stimulus package (which did a whole lot of not much), but this counterintuitive argument deserves a closer look.
Nevada, as we know, is a state largely dependent on tourism. Tourism, as we know, has been about as profitable as trading in Confederate bonds during this recession, so arguably anything Nevada has going for it that other states don't will do some good towards helping this hurting industry. Would anyone bother with Nevada if it weren't for the gambling, which begets the stage shows, hotels, and related attractions? Would cities like Las Vegas be anything more than a gas station and a Dennys if not for gambling?
Well, related to gambling is the legal prositution existing in the smaller counties (not including Vegas' Clark County). I've never been able to understand why an activity that is otherwise completely legal is suddenly illegal simply because one party is being paid for it. (Bribery isn't an apt comparison because that has more to do with an abuse of power. Unless we decide that sex is power and women are being bribed into abusing their power by having sex with the briber? A very weak argument for outlawing prostitution) The plausible arguments against legal prostitution--that prostitution often involves coercion and abuse of the hookers--hold little bong-water when you consider that when something's legal it can be regulated and inspected. How many prostitutes are afraid to go to the police when they're abused out of concern they'll be arrested for plying their trade? Isn't transparency better?
But Nevada has this loophole, and while the legal prostitution business there is only a small part of their tourist trade, why go out of the way to put hookers and related servicepeople (legal pimps, managers, cleaning staff) out of work? Why force truckers and conventioneers to move from regulated brothels to dirty back alleys?
I am a compromising man, though--I'll consider an argument to outlaw prostitution in Nevada when a different form of prostitution is outlawed in D.C., where 535 hookers of Republican and Democratic origin ply their trade.