Friday, August 1, 2014

Michelle Goldberg on Constrained Optimization

One important lesson I took away from my chat with Maggie McNeill: criminalizing prostitutes' clients can be worse than criminalizing prostitutes. Clients have more to lose from a conviction, so they'll insist on additional protections, at the expense of the safety of workers.

It's good to see the trope spreading, along with folks' willingness to recognize that if sex work looks like exploitation, it's simply because the alternative circumstances are worse, and that it's pretty awful to punish someone from hailing from lousy circumstances.

Michelle Goldberg, channeling Bastiat at his best peers through the veil of intentions to see the unseen consequences of well-meaning policy.

Salient quote:
The answer to the question of which law better protects women—full legalization or the criminalization of demand—is as much ideological as empirical. It depends on whether you see Anna as a trafficked, exploited woman mouthing sex-industry propaganda, or as a person with agency making the best choices she can given her constrained circumstances. It depends on how much regulation you’re willing to accept in the name of gender equality, and ultimately whether you think making it harder for some prostitutes to work is a worthwhile price to pay for reducing the number of women in prostitution overall.
 Driving a trade, any trade, underground makes it harder to identify actual cases of abuse. When everyone is a criminal, genuine criminals find it easier to blend in with the crowd. Prostitution may not be euvoluntary, but it's a dang sight better than violent criminals running amok among women of the evening with impunity.

h/t Ross D & Reihan S

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?