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Harry Reid Calls for an End to Legal Prostitution in Nevada

Remember when people called Harry Reid’s opponent a crazy right-wing religious fanatic? Now Senator Reid says that Nevada should prohibit prostitution in the rural counties that still allow it — and his reasoning makes me wonder who is paying him to push this.

There are arguments for allowing prostitution and prohibiting it, although I find the arguments for allowing it more persuasive. The only compelling argument that I can see for banning it is to make it very clear that our society does not approve of degrading sex in this way. Our society does approve of degrading sex in about a zillion other ways: pornographic movies, widespread adultery, the use of not very subtle sex as an advertising mechanism, Madonna, Lady Gaga. (Or is that Lady Gag-Me? I can never get that stage name quite right.) But you can immediately see the difference, right?

As much as the immorality of prostitution bothers me, the arguments for allowing it to be legal are pretty persuasive. It takes away at least some of the reasons why pimps exist. Where prostitution is legal, a prostitute does not need some guy with abominable fashion sense to bail her out of jail, protect her from rough customers, bribe police officers, make appointments with Planned Parenthood, take most of her money, and beat her up to show how much he cares for her. She may well end up with one of these pieces of sewage anyway, even where prostitution is legal, simply because the circumstances that drive some prostitutes into that line of work have bent their ability to make good judgments about men.

Where it is legal, governments can (and often do) make some effort to do health inspections. Nevada does regular disease inspections in brothels, and not surprisingly, legal prostitutes have very low STD rates. This alone is a strong argument for keeping it legal, Senator Reid.

On the downside, the regulatory process in Nevada has been abused in the past with corruption involving local officials. That might be an argument for limiting the power of local officials to exercise any discretion on licensing. Unfortunately, while legal prostitution leads to bribes to elected officials; illegal prostitution leads to bribes to vice cops. There does not seem to be a solution on this one, until we can hire Vulcans to work for the government.

What amazes me more than the arguments for and against prostitution is the absurdity of Senator Reid’s particular argument. Reid told a group of legislators that a recent meeting with some  businessmen in the tech field elicited a complaint that the county where the firms were looking to relocate allowed prostitution.

What? Does anyone seriously believe that there are businessmen in the technology business who would be horrified to open up shop in a county that has brothels? Please: will the social conservatives running businesses in the technology field please stand up, both of you? Senator Reid better learn real quick about this thing called an “excuse” — a lie that you make up because you are reluctant to tell someone the real reason that you do not want to set up shop in Storey County.

What always causes me to shake my head in disbelief is how strongly the Democratic Party imagines Republicans as a bunch of Puritans about to sew scarlet letters on the clothes of today’s Hester Prynnes. I can see a legitimate argument about whether prostitution should be legal. What I can’t see is why one of the most prominent leaders of the Democratic Party is making this argument — and making it on such astonishingly moralistic grounds. What next? Are we going to see Senator Reid arguing against same-sex marriage? At least from a Republican leader, it would be consistent with a certain traditional view of morality and law. Coming from the leader of the “If it feels good, do it” party, I feel like someone needs to require Senator Reid to sew a big red H on his coat — for Hypocrite.