For most westernized societies, apart from the US, it comes as no grand revelation that prostitution has been legalized, supervised and taxed for years. Whether the country is a constitutional monarchy, a democratic federation or a secular electorate democracy, the fact that prostitution is neither vilified nor aggrandized but tolerated is not a topic for immediate debate. It is an exemplar of Voltaire's infamous summation of what the Enlightenment saw as intrinsic democracy. Paraphrased his statement reads; “I may not agree with what your are saying but I will fight to the death for your right to say it”.
This is the cornerstone of democracy and the implicit pledge to tolerate actions and ideas which are not physically harmful to others. Libertarian pundits in the western world adhere to this ideological tenet on this social issue but are coyly dismissive when the same rhetoric is used in fiscal governance. Nevertheless, if one explores Europe, especially Norther Europe, prostitution is not only a visceral manifestation of this social ideal; it's tangible; it's on the government's radar. Prostitution is not only legal, it's also highly regulated in most Europe countries (mandatory health screenings and copious documentation). Additionally, there are also several localized labor unions devoted to the woman of the night.
Throughout the short but dense American history prostitution has nestled itself in the American psyche encompassing all social milieux. Consider the brothels and street walkers of America's oldest metropolitan areas; places like New York City, Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, to name but a few documented cities. But a gritter and subtler form of prostitution could be found on the advancing frontier of the American west. It is an almost ubiquitous scene in any film which subscribes to the Wild West format. This paradigm is not relegated to the big screen. Television shows like Gun Smoke employed a leading character, Miss Kitty, a brothel madam. To illustrate how ingrained and banal the archetypical brothel madam was; her character was the love interest of another lead character; Marshall Dylan: a governmental enforcer of the law. This tradition has continued to flourish in America, albeit under the radar and somewhat clandestine. The proud state of Nevada is one of the last American bastions of prostitution in the modern age. And they won't change a thing.
If this analogy seems anachronistic or esoteric, then consider the modern pornography industry. This business model thrives. It thrives because of the same mechanisms which are infused in Colorado weed legalization and Nevada prostitution legalization. The news outlet, CNBC, conducted a study of the profitability of legalization of marijuana and came to several staggering conclusions. They based their conclusions on data from research groups like NORML (National Organization for the Repeal of Marijuana Laws) and US Health and Human Services. Although the numbers differ greatly, an aggregate of all revenue delivers an estimate of taxes to be collected and overall savings in law enforcement equalling $20 billion. That's an estimate before the burgeoning cannabis cafe revolution in the US. What are the numbers then for prostitution?
According to an ABC PrimeTime report; $10 billion a year is generated through the various distribution channels of the porn industry. Even more astonishing is that large multi-national corporation realize the innate cash cow that is pornography; “Companies like General Motors, AOL Time Warner and Marriott earn revenue by piping adult movies into Americans' homes and hotel rooms, but you won't see anything about it in their company reports”. It appears that sex, as a commodity, is trading with relative impunity as a blue chip stock in the US. Why not prostitution?
Many people, it appears, don't take much umbrage to pornography, if it is tightly scrutinized and adequate foresight is maintained. Things like age requirements for performers and consumers as well as legal consent without duress for performers, are probably the chief concerns for those who have a laissez-faire or libertarian view towards the industry. But what is the fundamental difference? None really if one considers that the aforementioned criteria are met. Both prostitution and pornography as well as marijuana consumption are victimless if these criteria are adhered to under the law.
Let's do the numbers. Tracey Pierce Sonntag, in an article entitled “Case for Legalization ofProstitution” illustrates the financial feasibility of prostitution we can utilize the data collected on one Nevada brothel. Her findings reveal that an employee at the brothel earns $100,000 taxable income a year. This is if the employee is only working on week per month! What's more remarkable, on a financial-tax scale, is that there are an approximately 1 million, on a conservative estimate, prostitutes in the US which could yield a whopping $20 billion or more a year in taxes.
Much like the crusades being waged through America to decriminalize and ultimately legalize marijuana, so too should America embrace her prostitution past and decriminalize and ultimately legalize prostitution.