In each human heart terror survives
The ravin it has gorged: the loftiest fear
All that they would disdain to think were true:
Hypocrisy and custom make their minds
The fanes of many a worship, now outworn.
They dare not devise good for man’s estate,
And yet they know not that they do not dare. – Shelley, Prometheus Unbound
Starting today, my readers will have the opportunity to see me in a rather different mode. Normally, my arguments are in the form of a monologue; though people can and do disagree with me in the comments, they aren’t writing full essays; furthermore, the readership of any blog is going to self-select towards a general zone of agreement with its author. In other words, though most of my readers disagree with me on some points and some disagree with me on many points, very few disagree with me on most points (else they’d probably not be regular readers). But near the end of October, Jason Kuznicki invited me to contribute the lead essay for this month’s issue of Cato Unbound; it will post today at about 11 AM Eastern Time (16:00 UTC). About the same time Wednesday, a response essay will post, then another on Friday and one more next Monday. For the rest of this month I and the others will then write a series of shorter essays responding to each others’ points, creating a debate in print that will conclude at the end of December. Here’s the index of previous issues, so you can get an idea how it tends to unfold.
I would like to thank Jason for thinking enough of my writing and thinking skills to invite me to lead off the debate on this subject; I hope that I can argue my position convincingly and adequately answer the criticisms of the other writers, and that I can sway those Cato readers who aren’t necessarily predisposed toward decriminalization to see the sense and justice of it. My lead essay is entitled “Treating Sex Work as Work”, and here’s the first paragraph:
When researchers taught capuchin monkeys how to use money, it didn’t take long for one of the male monkeys to offer a female one of the coins in exchange for sex. Prostitution is often called “the world’s oldest profession” with good reason; it is a form of exchange that predates the human species, and has even been observed among chimpanzees. Males tend to want sex much more frequently than most females are willing to accommodate, and where a demand exists it is inevitable that some individuals will choose to meet it for a price. But because sex has traditionally been viewed as sacred, magical or otherwise special because of its ability to produce life, it has always been an area authoritarians felt especially compelled to enact restrictions upon; the fact that most of the sellers were female and most of the buyers male probably also had a lot to do with it, especially in pre-modern times when virtually all political power was concentrated in the hands of the client class. We no longer live in a time when power depends upon gender, nor one in which coitus runs an uncontrollable risk of creating unwanted offspring, yet our laws regarding prostitution are still solidly anchored in the era when those conditions prevailed…
It’s about 3000 words, two to three times the length of one of my normal columns, but I don’t think you’ll get bored. Click on over to Cato Unbound for the rest, and be sure to look in for the other contributors’ responses and the debate to follow. Following the usual pattern, my first response should post on Thursday the 12th, and then a few more times over the next few weeks as needed. So for this month, you’ll be getting a double-dose of Maggie if you are so inclined…and I really hope you will be!