Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sex Workers & Freedom

Also available at mises.ca

Last Saturday Montreal’s sex-workers and their supporters took to the streets for a dance-a-thon. They weren’t protesting – as that requires complying with bylaw P-6 – but dancing in an effort to raise awareness about the Supreme Court’s decision next week. The supreme priests of the civic religion will determine if prostitution is a legitimate profession. The market – albeit black market – has already determine that it is. Prostitution is the world’s oldest profession.

This process started when the Superior Court of Ontario ruled that prostitution was eh-okay. The federal government appealed the decision putting the legality into question. The ruling Ontario judge, Susan Himel, argues that prohibition violates the Charter of Rights & Freedoms and that the harm done by the current laws exceed the potential harm of legalization. The Conservative government disagrees.
As the Supreme Court of Canada examines the issue this week, I hope they come across the economic argument. The fact that sex workers exist is an indication that some people enjoy trading sex for money and vice versa. Consenting adults should not have to worry about an aggressive third-party arbitrator claiming moral superiority. Attempts to outlaw this practice inevitably lead to a black market. No amount of force will prevent people from pursuing what they want. The government cannot change human nature; they can only create criminals out of entrepreneurs and consumers.
Most sex workers probably sight the Charter as proof that their profession is a human right. But there ain’t no such thing as human rights. An individual has ownership of his or her own body and accumulates resources to transform, trade and consume. But outside of this right to own property, there are no abstract “human rights.” Sex workers own themselves and can acquire property to conduct their business. Consenting adults are free to exchange based on these two precepts. The idea that our freedom comes from a piece of paper presupposes that we have no rights until the state determines their existence. It would be odd to call that kind of society “free” in any sense of the word.

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