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Spitzer, Prostitution, And Moral Wrongs

The Spitzer scandal has brought forth some articles like this very good one from Emily Bazelon on whether prostitution should be illegal. Meanwhile, Matt Yglesias opines:

Whenever a politician gets caught up in a prostitution scandal, I do need to return to the fact that at the end of the day I don't really think the exchange of sex for money is serious wrongdoing in the sense that justifies criminal sanctions.

One thing that I think often gets lost in these debates (whether they be over prostitution or drug legalization), is that an action can be wrong because it is illegal. Or, to put it another way, an action can have bad consequences only because of the fact that it happens to be illegal. For example, you can make a perfectly reasonable argument that drugs should be decriminalized or legalized, but that does not change the fact that right now drugs are illegal, and therefore by giving money to the drug economy you may be perpetuating other wrongs. The same is true of prostitution in certain cases, if the "ring" you are patronizing is doing bad things. I am not arguing this is necessarily the case in the Spitzer scandal, but it's something to keep in mind when considering the moral questions involved.

--Isaac Chotiner