It depresses me to read nonsense from otherwise sensible libertarians. Charles C. W. Cooke, who I usually enjoy, argues for legalizing prostitution in National Review:
If your political philosophy requires the micromanagement of all individual behavior as a means of achieving established societal aims, then you will presumably find little wrong with the status quo in this area.
Curious is Cooke’s use of the phrase “individual behavior,” as if the incident of soliciting the services of a whore were itself sheathed in a condom, preventing the sticky mess from touching anything. The man, his family, the woman, and her family, all are somehow unharmed by this transaction in which she temporarily becomes his physical property, his sex slave.
Cooke tries to construe the proscription of prostitution as social engineering. But in this case “achieving established societal aims” means maintaining established social norms, unlike the pipe dreams of the Left, wherein human difference is conquered and collective perfection attained. Similarly fantastical is Cooke’s vision of a country in which men, constantly tempted to sin, abstain like angels, and on the occasions they succumb, society absorbs the consequences.
But if you are of the view that republics are supposed to maximize the liberty of the individual and to privilege its protection above the vagaries of national schemers, then perhaps you might reconsider your position.
Republics are indeed “supposed to maximize the liberty of the individual,” but that is not their reason for being. As I have said, liberty is the means to pursuing the good. Governments’ purpose, is to “protect and nurture the civil society.” That entails “prohibitions on drugs and same-sex marriage and abortion” and, yes, prostitution.
Now, society may well elect to disapprove of prostitution. In fact, I rather do myself. But, then, while I have no desire to inject heroin into myself either, I reserve that right as a free man must.
Prostitution and heroin, a powerful testimony to the freedom agenda!
In what universe does telling men, particularly young men, that they can fulfill their most private fantasies without punishment not skew their sexual priorities? In what universe does removing the legal and cultural stigma against instant gratification not deter men from the work of courtship, marriage, and fatherhood? It’s not the universe we live in, but Cooke thinks it is. Or he just doesn’t care.
As it did with its fight against alcohol and has begun to do with its war on drugs, the United States should recognize that its attempt to eliminate prostitution has been a failure.
If we measure a law by whether it eliminates the behavior it punishes, we can scrap the criminal code altogether. “The United States should recognize that its attempt to eliminate domestic violence has been a failure.” “The United States should recognize that its attempt to eliminate grand theft auto has been a failure.” “The United States should recognize that its attempt to eliminate parking in the fire lane has been a failure.” Etc. Criminal laws exist to punish crimes because sometimes people don’t act rationally and they commit crimes.
But here’s the kicker:
“Legal” does not equal “moral,” and it never will, but a move by the states to legalize and regulate the practice may help to take the industry out of the hands of criminals and to allow regulation of what is, frankly, an inevitability.
In other words, with the right regulatory regime, we can make prostitution “legal, safe, and rare.” We can have prostitution without crime. We can nullify sin. Here Cooke unfortunately embraces the social engineering he ostensibly stands against.
Whence does such blind faith in man overcoming the human condition (aka humanism) come from?
Deep in all our hearts is a noble yearning for freedom. To no one is the world as it should be.
When God made us in His image, He gave us free will so we might freely obey Him (or not). Some disobey with a religious fervor. For them, the logic of their vanity leads to humanist ethics.
I wrote that last September. John Gray aptly calls it “secular religion,” an ill-fated faith in the ultimate triumph of man over his own nature.
For further reading on this theme, read this heady National Interest piece in which Robert W. Merry reviews Gray’s The Silence of Animals.