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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Green Party supports legalizing prostitution. Is it a smart move?

The Green Party has a remarkably open policy process and allows fierce dissent of its policies even on the party’s official website. I don’t consider myself a populist, and I’m certainly not a Green Party supporter, but I’m impressed by the sincerity with which the party embraces this process. Compare the Green Party approach to grassroots politics to this rather pathetic statement by Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff from a report by Western Standard associate editor Jesse Kline:

"I want open nominations in every riding in the country. I want to rebuild this party from the grassroots-up, but I cannot abandon the prerogative of our leader to make those appointments that I deem necessary," said Ignatieff.

Ignatieff is prepared to defer to the grassroots members of the Liberal Party, except when it really matters, like hand picking candidates.

A good example of Green Party populism, by contrast, comes by way of a recent post on the party’s website by Green Party member Steve May on the party’s adoption of a policy to legalize prostitution. May wrote:

Many in the Green Party might be surprised to discover that the Green Party of Canada now supports the legalization of prostitution, through the adoption of Resolution G08-p014 by internet voting last summer, and recently ratified at the February policy convention. Many who might be concerned about the rights of women might find this resolution interesting, and either a step in the right direction, or the wrong direction. After reading Leslie Scrivener's interview of Victor Malarek, I've no doubt that Malarek's reaction to our new policy would be similar to my own: absolutely appalled.

With a very thoughtful position on drug policy reform and now a policy to legalize prostitution, the Green Party is staking its claim to civil libertarian voters made homeless in the last federal election by NDP leader Jack Layton with his purge of candidates like Dana Larsen and Kirk Tousaw, both with ties to libertarian publisher Marc Emery.

This doesn’t impress Steve May, who argues that the prostitution policy “…might be better for those prostitutes who would qualify for the legal protection of the state, but what legalization will do is create an atmosphere, perhaps even a society, of acceptance.” My reaction: absolutely appalled.

A policy that decreases the risk that sex workers face of rape, murder, disease and theft can surely not be quickly dismissed, regardless of what one thinks of the morality of prostitution. Furthermore, anyone who equates legalization with acceptance implicitly holds the obscenely perverse view that the state is the arbiter of morality. One can, and should, hold the view that prostitution is immoral but should not be criminal, notwithstanding whatever the state might think.

Support for liberalizing prostitution laws is now coming from people who have historically opposed relaxing these laws: feminists.

The BC Civil Liberties Association reports that FIRST, a Vancouver-based feminist group, is calling for the decriminalization of prostitution in conjunction with May Day observances. So those “concerned about the rights of women,” as May writes, are beginning to see the value of giving the oldest profession some legal legitimacy and protection.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on May 2, 2009 | Permalink

Comments

"Furthermore, anyone who equates legalization with acceptance implicitly holds the obscenely perverse view that the state is the arbiter of morality"

Maybe. But we should distinguish between two positions:

(a) The state ought to be the arbiter of morality.
(b) The state is generally perceived to be the arbiter - or, at least, an arbiter - of morality.

The second is obviously an empirical claim. But if I believed it, I might have reservations about legalizing prostitution - even if I believed that, all things considered, the state ought not to be the arbiter of morality.

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2009-05-02 12:21:23 AM


And those reservations would have to be weighed against the "rape, murder, disease and theft" I mention.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-05-02 12:24:59 AM


Well, de facto, prostitution at every level but street level has been legalized. A quick look in the back pages of Now or Monday Mag makes that very clear.

So what we are really talking about is the nuisance value of street girls.

The state's moral position is best summed up by GBS:

"Best joke about prostitution ever done was by Bernard Shaw. He was at a party once and he told this woman that everyone would agree to do anything for money, if the price was high enough. `Surely not, she said.'
`Oh yes,' he said.
`Well, I wouldn't,' she said.
`Oh yes you would,' he said. `For instance,' he said, `would you sleep with me for... for a million pounds?'
`Well,' she said, `maybe for a million I would, yes.'
`Would you do it for ten shillings?' said Bernard Shaw. `Certainly not!' said the woman `What do you take me for? A prostitute?'
`We've established that already,' said Bernard Shaw. `We're just trying to fix your price now!' "

By it's long standing acceptance of communications for the purposes of prostitution in the back pages of the alternative press and Craigslist, the state has taken a position.

About which I could care less; in the real world women (and men) balance the scales of age and attractiveness with cash. There is nothing at all that the state can do about it and to pretend otherwise is to ignore several thousand years of history.

If you want to read the transaction reports go to Stan Persky's memoirs or Christopher Isherwood's or Gore Vidal's. Yes, gay; but exactly the same transactions are played out in the heterosexual world. They are simply disguised.

Posted by: Jay Currie | 2009-05-02 12:35:10 AM


Matthew, why should one hold the view that prostitution is immoral?

I know that this issue is tangential to your argument here, but in writing about legalizing prostitution you frequently make this claim without justifying it.

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2009-05-02 12:36:41 AM


Why? Well, I generally consider sex in the absence of love morally questionable. At the very least there should be some sort of mutual respect and attraction. But this, as you say, Kalim, is tangential to the main point.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-05-02 12:49:45 AM


And thanks for fixing my formatting. :-)

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-05-02 12:50:28 AM


Jay Currie,
Good point, well said.

Posted by: JC | 2009-05-02 1:06:15 AM


Why doesn't the Green Party put out a sign that reads "Don't vote for us." Seriously, their "policies" leave much to be desired.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2009-05-02 6:12:55 AM


Arguing that legalizing prostitution will make prostitution safer is like arguing that legalizing burglary will make burglary safer. The mere fact that someone is willing to put themselves at risk by operating outside the law is not grounds for the repeal of that law.

I'm beginning to suspect that under the libertarian regime, the only recognized crime would be passing laws, or in the case of a Green regime, anything that causes the consumption of oxygen, the passing of waste, or provides shelter from the elements.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-05-02 8:45:51 AM


Matthew, why should one hold the view that prostitution is immoral?

Because it's an affront to the dignity of every party to the transaction. It reduces the prostitute to a piece of meat to be be bought and sold, and it makes the pimp a trafficker in human flesh, and the john a buyer of the same. Granted this is rental, not purchase, but the principle is the same.

It's becoming plainer by the day that libertarians, at least the ones on this blog, have a moral compass that is completely haywire, or totally absent. Next you'll be asking why murder should be illegal.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-05-02 9:06:40 AM


Terrence, virtually all of society's most serious and enduring laws are based on morality. Think about it.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-05-02 9:08:06 AM


Green party supports legalization of prostitution.
is it a smart move?

Indeed, its a great move. Bravo
It will get rid of the Green party once and for all.

being nice to trees , animals and the Suzukisphere ( TM )
in general - while selling the underachieving daughters and gay sons of their own species into sexual slavery is as rotton & revolting as it can get in this world. Gag me with a blue box

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Posted by: 419 | 2009-05-02 9:16:15 AM


Political whores.

What a concept.

Posted by: set you free | 2009-05-02 10:53:05 AM


This is what happens when you ally with the corporations and their servants in the Liebral Party. May is nothing less than the paid agent of the rich.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2009-05-02 11:01:09 AM


Nobody cares about hookers. Why are political parties so dumb about their priorities? Why needlessly open this can of worms?

Politicians are pathologically stupid.

Posted by: epsilon | 2009-05-02 11:32:39 AM


Shane,

I don't disagree with you. What I thought Matthew was saying was not that laws shouldn't be based on morality, but that morality shouldn't be based on the law.

Thus: legalizing prostitution shouldn't change its moral status.

I'm not saying I agree with that, but I think that was the point he was making.

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2009-05-02 11:59:26 AM


Terrence, Shane and others,

Real crimes are obviously immoral acts, but not all immoral acts are real crimes. The state should not be the arbiter of what is immoral. The state should be the arbiter of what is a crime, and they should apply a simple test: does the act constitute force or fraud. Consensual acts like prostitution don't qualify as real crimes, however immoral they might be, which we can debate.

As for the empirical question of whether or not the state is the arbiter or morality, the wide spread use of drugs and prostitution would suggest otherwise.

Epsi, the fact that the Green Party does care about this marginal group speaks very well of the party -- and I'm not a supporter.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-05-02 12:37:34 PM


Prostitution exists in many forms and is rampant in all sectors. Prostitution involving sex is probably just slightly more titillating than an expensive massage, I would imagine. The ugly and demeaning street variety is what WalMart would look like if it were socially outcast, and illegal.

Too bad the Greens couldn't be purged of their hysterical and religious zeal for Gaia as many other of their policies could fit with libertarians. But then the Libertarians could simply double their support if they just merged with the Marxist-Leninists.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2009-05-02 3:15:00 PM


Next you'll be asking why murder should be illegal.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-05-02 9:06:40 AM

---

I always enjoy your comments, Shane, except when you're being insincere. I'm sure you understand the libertarian principle of non-aggression and our view on consensual acts and the distinction between vice and crime.

You might think the state has a more important role to play in regulating social behavior than libertarians, but let's not pretend that we don't understand each other.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-05-02 3:27:03 PM


Matthew, so you are saying the Green Party cares about hookers by de facto encouragement of their dilemma.

The problem here is not with hookers ya big dope. It is with the pimps and johns. Go after these scumbags and you might help these poor women.

But I still say there are no votes in it. Just trouble.

Posted by: epsilon | 2009-05-02 8:03:10 PM


The Greens support legalisation of prostitution. Well, let's us now. They support the radical feminists, the radical homosexuals, abortion while remaining anti-people. Yes, people are a plague on nature. Oh, I missed anti-development and anti-progress. What a party!

Posted by: Alain | 2009-05-02 8:05:11 PM


Real crimes are obviously immoral acts, but not all immoral acts are real crimes. The state should not be the arbiter of what is immoral. The state should be the arbiter of what is a crime, and they should apply a simple test: does the act constitute force or fraud. Consensual acts like prostitution don't qualify as real crimes, however immoral they might be, which we can debate.

Fascinating. And exactly who defines what a "real" crime is, Matthew? Why should only acts based on force or fraud be illegal? Why should we accept the limits you set? What if we like ours better?

As for the empirical question of whether or not the state is the arbiter or morality, the wide spread use of drugs and prostitution would suggest otherwise.

Society is the arbiter of morality. And society disapproves of psychotropic drugs, even if it's not convinced they should be illegal. And those attitudes may change sharply in twenty years when the baby boomer druggies begin to die off.

Epsi, the fact that the Green Party does care about this marginal group speaks very well of the party -- and I'm not a supporter.

It would speak better of the party if they showed any substantive concern for the great majority of voters. A tyranny of the minority is no improvement on a tyranny of the majority; in fact it is fodder for revolution.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-05-02 11:14:49 PM


I always enjoy your comments, Shane, except when you're being insincere. I'm sure you understand the libertarian principle of non-aggression and our view on consensual acts and the distinction between vice and crime.

If you have to say you're sure, it means you aren't, Matthew. And libertarians are the ones with the case to make. Appeal to libertarian values as proof of concept is a logical fallacy.

You might think the state has a more important role to play in regulating social behavior than libertarians, but let's not pretend that we don't understand each other.

I understand you very well, Matthew. The difference between your morals and mine is that I have some.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-05-02 11:16:41 PM


When Canada Employment Centres can refer your wife or daughter to a whore-house to perform a 'job' she's qualified for, or else - the 'Progressives' victory will be complete.

Posted by: Philanthropist | 2009-05-03 6:48:29 AM


@ Shane Matthews:

"The mere fact that someone is willing to put themselves at risk by operating outside the law is not grounds for the repeal of that law."

So much for civil disobedience, I guess. I wonder what Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luthor King, Rosa Parks, etc would have thought about this statement?

"Society is the arbiter of morality. And society disapproves of psychotropic drugs, even if it's not convinced they should be illegal."

Hmmm... Alcohol? Ritalin? Zoloft? Valium? Percoset?

@ epsilon:

"Why needlessly open this can of worms?"

Prostitution has been around for as long as mankind, and no effort by any society to eradicate it by law or by force has worked. As a result, prostitutes operate without any legal protection and the police are not allowed to differentiate between those who are prostitutes willingly and those who are forced into the life. Our society has generally settled into a mode of ignoring it so long as it is behind closed doors, but this does not take away the fact that there are those in need of the law's protection.

The Green Party is merely recognizing this ineffective legal regime and proposing an alternative so that people can choose to engage in prostitution with the protection of the law and law enforcement can concentrate it's efforts toward those who are forced into it.

In other words, they are saying that there is nothing inherently wrong with a sex for money transaction between consenting adults, and that our efforts are better placed on ensuring that they are indeed consenting.

"But I still say there are no votes in it. Just trouble."

I see. And we should just continue to ignore situations where the existing laws are clearly not working, just because they are not vote getters? If I believed that I'd vote Liberal.


In an effort of full disclosure, I am a two time past candidate for the federal Green Party in Ontario.

Posted by: Glenn Hubbers | 2009-05-03 8:10:36 AM


"Why? Well, I generally consider sex in the absence of love morally questionable."

If you hold to the principles of individualism vs collectivism, then you surely must realize that while *you* may not value sex without love -- that's not your choice to make for others.

Incidentally - I personally feel the same way. But the thing about valuing freedom consistently is that every person gets to chose their own values and unless somebody infringes upon the right of others, nobody should be allowed to impinge upon the choices and actions people make to achieve their chosen values.

Prostitution is not objectively moral or immoral, unless in some way it is a violation of individual rights or liberties. So long as it's consensual and between adults -- it ain't nobody's business.

Posted by: MW | 2009-05-03 9:20:56 AM


The problem here is not with hookers ya big dope. It is with the pimps and johns. Go after these scumbags and you might help these poor women.

Uh huh. The men are all bastards, and the women all innocent victims. They're not supporting drug habits or anything. Good luck getting respect with that attitude, sweetheart.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-05-03 9:28:23 AM


Glenn: your party leader sold your organization to the rich capitalist ruling class in Toronto. Your policies mean nothing.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2009-05-03 9:29:13 AM


So much for civil disobedience, I guess. I wonder what Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luthor King, Rosa Parks, etc would have thought about this statement?

It was the injustice of the laws against which these men demonstrated that constituted grounds their repeal, not the fact that they treated lawbreakers differently than the law-abiding. All laws do that. If you can make a case that a law is unjust, do so. Don’t hide behind this “marginalization” horseshit.

Hmmm... Alcohol? Ritalin? Zoloft? Valium? Percoset?

Alcohol: Simple depressant, not generally a mind alterer (although a famous mind de-inhibitor). Ritalin: Simple stimulant, used therapeutically. Zoloft, Valium: Simple anti-depressants, not mind alterers. Percocet: Narcotic painkiller. All these substances are approved as safe by the FDA and their contribution generally outweighs their downside. Illegal drugs are illegal because this is not true for them. Unless you want to argue that crack is really a great boon to mankind if only people would open their eyes.

Prostitution has been around for as long as mankind, and no effort by any society to eradicate it by law or by force has worked.

Both halves of that sentence are true of all crime. Efforts by society to minimize and control it have worked, however.

As a result, prostitutes operate without any legal protection and the police are not allowed to differentiate between those who are prostitutes willingly and those who are forced into the life. Our society has generally settled into a mode of ignoring it so long as it is behind closed doors, but this does not take away the fact that there are those in need of the law's protection.

Forced into it by what? If they’re kidnapped, that’s one thing. And living off the avails of prostitution is already illegal. No one is above the law, and no one is beneath its protection. Even convicts have rights under the law—but breaking the law isn’t one of them. If you choose to put yourself at risk to hide yourself from the law, that’s no one’s fault but your own.

The Green Party is merely recognizing this ineffective legal regime and proposing an alternative so that people can choose to engage in prostitution with the protection of the law and law enforcement can concentrate it's efforts toward those who are forced into it.

The fact that the existing setup isn’t perfect is not, in itself, grounds for its replacement, unless a superior one is available to take its place. Throwing morality to the wind and “letting it all hang out” may please the lawless, but on its own it’s justification for nothing.

In other words, they are saying that there is nothing inherently wrong with a sex for money transaction between consenting adults, and that our efforts are better placed on ensuring that they are indeed consenting.

And they are wrong.

But I still say there are no votes in it. Just trouble. - I see. And we should just continue to ignore situations where the existing laws are clearly not working, just because they are not vote getters? If I believed that I'd vote Liberal.

Who says they’re not working? Using this logic we should repeal traffic cops writing tickets for speeding and not wearing seat belts—disobedience of both laws is rampant.

In an effort of full disclosure, I am a two time past candidate for the federal Green Party in Ontario.

No! Really?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-05-03 9:51:40 AM


Prostitution is not objectively moral or imoral, unless in some way it is a violation of individual rights or liberties. So long as it's consensual and between adults -- it ain't nobody's busines.

Do you take the same attitude towards market-hunting species to extinction or the wasteful and pollutive industrial practices the prevailed until the mid-20th century?

Shitting in the streets doesn't infringe on anyone's liberty, unlike the laws that forbid it. Just because something doesn't violate the rights of another human doesn't make it moral.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-05-03 9:59:59 AM


People have been killing each other since the dawn of time.

Since man-made laws have done nothing to stop this, I say it's high time we legalized murder.

Posted by: set you free | 2009-05-03 10:03:48 AM


Murder meets the standard of a real crime, set you free. It's an act of agression that violates one's right to life. It is not a consensual act. It should not, therefore, be legalized.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-05-03 5:13:02 PM


Meets your standard of a real crime, Matthew. We already know your opinion. Now justify it. As the one calling for change, the burden of proof lies with you.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-05-04 6:49:17 AM


He already did justify it, just because you statists don't like his definition of a true crime does not mean it isn't accurate or sensible.

Posted by: DrGreenthumb | 2009-05-04 7:24:31 AM


So Dr G-
no still means yes to you..
vague is open minded
and fringe is mainstream
and Marc Emery will walk away a free man
because it suits your wipehead rebel style..

the crime definition Shane describes
is the operative model of the human race
Until the Wipehead Jedi Knights seize power,
you are sort of obliged to abide by this definition

Posted by: 419 | 2009-05-04 8:50:38 AM


Any figures about the percentage of women who consider prostitution consentual?

I guess those people who expose human trafficking of women and liken in to a modern-day slave trade are just imagining those human beings are just ecstatic to be kidnapped and forced to have sex with slimy, greasy losers are just imagining things.

Better yet, in the definition suggested by this thread, those who expose these types of practises which strip women of their human dignity are actually oppressors?

Yeah, that's it. Anybody who can't figure out it's OK to exploit other human beings, whether it be dope dealers or pimps, must be an oppressor.

Wherever did you ever come up with such f**ked up logic?

Posted by: set you free | 2009-05-04 9:40:51 AM


Obviously kidnapping women to be used in the sex trade is non-consensual and criminal, set you free.

If you are concerned with the treatment of women, how would you address the dangerous conditions in which prostitutes work?

Your view is to enforce the law, get rid of the johns and end the exploitation of these women. Why hasn't law enforcement been able to do this, in your estimate?

These are sincere question.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2009-05-04 9:50:39 AM


Set you free,

Come on, let's be honest here. The example you have given is obviously not one of consent. Kidnapping and coercing a young women would obviously be illegal to any libertarian. In fact, legalizing consensual prostitution would help indentify the cases you mention.

The fact that conservatives want certain consenting behaviour to be illegal makes it obvious they want to impose their morality on others.

I await the juvenile insults about how I'm not getting laid enough ...

Posted by: Charles | 2009-05-04 9:53:58 AM


He already did justify it, just because you statists don't like his definition of a true crime does not mean it isn't accurate or sensible.

It doesn't mean it isn't, either.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-05-04 6:24:43 PM


If you are concerned with the treatment of women, how would you address the dangerous conditions in which prostitutes work?

By exposing themselves to such danger, the women are mistreating themselves. And I would address the dangerous element by discouraging them from working in it--exactly as we are now doing.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-05-04 6:28:01 PM


The fact that conservatives want certain consenting behaviour to be illegal makes it obvious they want to impose their morality on others.

And the fact that libertarians want all consensual behaviour to be legal regardless of the consequences makes it obvious they care less about consequences than about ideals.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-05-04 6:30:22 PM



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