Friday, November 23, 2012

The Sexual Revolution and Prostitution

Let us suppose you are young and single. One night, while out on the town, you meet a young lady (or gentleman) who agrees to come home with you. Over the course of the evening, your companion mentions that if she (or he) is going to leave her (or his) friends behind, she'll need a cab to get home, and asks if you can help pay the fare. Or, perhaps, she mentions that staying out all night will mean having to pay the babysitter more, and asks if you can help with the cost.

Is this prostitution?

How about if this person makes it more explicit? Say, saying something along the lines of "You want me to sleep with you, and you won't give me $20?" Or "you expect me to go home with you, but you won't pay for my sitter?"

How about if this other person does not make even that explicit a demand, but does something a bit more subtle, such as acting in such a way that it is obvious she assumes you will pay for her drinks? Or maybe a little more forthright, and actually asks you to buy her a drink? Or maybe asks you to take her out to eat first?

Not enough to be prostitution?

How about if she asks you to pay to get her car out of a parking lot? Or instead says she is short and asks to borrow money to pay for parking?

I know, this is an old question, at least in some circles, with many who do not care for traditional relationships asking what is the difference between demanding dinner and a movie and demanding cash up front. However, I think these questions are important, and, to be honest, they are asked many times a month in our modern world, as police often have to wade through such questions when trying to make cases for prostitution.

For example, assume a young lady joins you, makes it clear she is interested in you, even agrees to go home, then asks, as you are now friends, if you might loan her a small sum? It could be a description of a relatively innocent, if a bit rapid, relationship, or it could be a dodge to cover prostitution, in fact a rather common one, as, by separating the promise of sex and the request for money it makes the case a little harder to make. On the other hand, for those of us who grew up in these more promiscuous times, especially those who moved in circles where sexual mores were rather liberal*, how often have we been asked for money by someone we were either sleeping with, or in whom we had an interest? How many times did the pattern which could be concealed prostitution occur in more innocent, or at least less mercenary surroundings?

But, were they? If the other party was implying she would trade sex for money, while you simply thought she was asking for a friendly loan, as well as expressing interest in you, then was it prostitution or not?

This is the problem I wanted to discuss, as it shows quite clearly how our modern view of sexuality has made prostitution even more difficult an issue than it was in the past**. You see, in the past, sex was seen as properly taking place within marriage, or, if not only within marriage. Men might have mistresses, or might chase after "loose" women, but that was seen as improper. Of course, not all improper sex was prostitution. Some was simply the domain of immoral men and women. However, when sex took place, and money exchanged hands, it was pretty clear that it constituted prostitution. Be it a street walker or an established mistress, asking for money was prostitution.

But that simply does not work today. With sexual relations being viewed as not just acceptable, but normal, between people with little previous connection, it is quite possible for people to meet, agree to have sex, and also exchange some sort of money, on any number of grounds, without any intent to pay for sex. And, if we allow for some previous contact between the parties, then it becomes even more common, and even more probable the incident was entirely innocent. Because sexuality is no longer limited to marriage, the coincidence of some sort of financial exchange and some sort of sexual connection is not at all uncommon, and so what was once prima facie evidence of prostitution is now nothing of the kind.

Of course, as many will point out, most prostitution is still of the plain "sex for money" kind, and just as easily proven, and they are right. My point is, once we allow for some degree of sexual freedom, we also must accept that many exchanges which are indistinguishable from prostitution will arise in entirely innocent ways, meaning that many will continue to find it puzzling that explicit exchanges of sex for money are disallowed, while many exchanges which are almost indistinguishable are allowed.

Some may take this argument and draw thew opposite conclusion, that we do not need to reexamine our stand on prostitution and the law, but instead should return to those times when society and the law  were more intimately involved in personal sexual matters. I would disagree, at least in part. As far as individual and societal morality is concerned, I cannot object to those who wish a more traditional view. I do not necessarily agree with their position, but I believe if we are going to enforce individual ethics, that social controls are the way in which it must be done.

Which is why I say they are wrong, in part, as the other half of their argument, that of restoring the law's role, I believe entirely incorrect. As I have said repeatedly, the place for the law is in protecting our rights from violation by others, it is not to ensure our behavior follows any pattern, other than respecting others' rights. Society is free to apply pressure to change our behavior, others are free to ask us to act in certain ways, and to call us to task when we violate collective norms, but the tool to use is not the law, or the state. Society is free to expect certain behaviors, but those expectations must still be enforced through non-coercive, private means. Force must be reserved for the protection of rights.

Which actually explains why I am opposed to laws about prostitution as well. Whatever can be said about prostitution, it clearly does not violate anyone's rights, and so, whatever we may think, it is not a fit subject for legal action. Which, now that I think about it, makes all the preceding arguments rather pointless, as a better argument was available all the time. Still, it never hurts to take a look at something from a different perspective, so I will leave the essay as it is. Futile it might be, but at least it offers yet another argument for why we should limit the state, and keep its out of a lengthy list of matters.

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* Without providing a lengthy personal history, I spent much of my teen years as a punk rocker, associating with like minded souls. I was later involved briefly with the late 80s hippie revival, after which I began to associate with collegiate art students and philosophy majors, two groups with which I would remain in contact throughout my twenties. So, as should be obvious from that description, I spent a lot of my early life around those who professed the most liberal views on sexuality.

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POSTSCRIPT

Of course, none of this is the basis for my argument that prostitution, among other "victimless crimes" should be decriminalized. My primary argument is, quite simply, that an action which does not violate the rights of another should not be illegal. The state should limit itself to protecting against force, theft and fraud, and the rest should be controlled, if at all, through the reaction of the community, with private disapproval serving in the place of the present laws. In this way I think it would be quite easy for most communities to keep themselves free of overt prostitution. (Quiet, discreet prostitution will likely, as it does today, continue unnoticed by most.) And we shall enjoy the benefit of having police free to better serve us in pursuing criminals who represent a real danger,  while the state will have that much less power over us.

Of course, I doubt this will prove a popular argument, as most conservatives tend to disagree with me. And, unlike most libertarians, who charge forth waving banners for NORML, I recognize prostitution and drug decriminalization are not wildly popular causes, and I would not make them my primary focus. However, I find I do have to mention them from time to time, if only to remind us that sometimes defending liberty means defending causes with which we have little sympathy, and yet that is the price we must pay. Freedom includes the freedom to do things we find distasteful, to adopt stands with which we disagree, and otherwise to do things we find disagreeable. Or, as I put it elsewhere, freedom is the freedom to be wrong, stupid and obnoxious. But it is important that we defend the rights of those we find so offensive, if for no other reason than that, to someone, somewhere, we are just as obnoxious and offensive, and so, unless we defend the rights of those we detest, we may one day find we are the detested minority being forced to do "the right thing" by others.

POSTSCRIPT II

Many liberals, and some libertarians, try to argue this point with the slogan "you can't legislate morality", which is a completely nonsensical position. Laws are nothing but legislated morality. What other basis exists for insisting we respect the rights of others?

I think they mean something along the lines of "you cannot legislate personal morality", but even there they may run into issues, as private morality clearly plays a role in those moral codes which govern interaction with others.

No, what they should argue is that the law has but a single purpose, and that is to protect individual rights. Thus, to use the law to try to protect us from our mistakes, or our bad decisions, when those choices in no way threaten the rights of others, is to misuse the state.

But, saying that would involve explaining quite an elaborate view of government, and one not much in vogue today, so perhaps it is best that they stick with simple soundbites, no matter how erroneous.

For those interested in a more thorough examination, I suggest "The Case for Small Government" and the many essays it cites. I would also recommend "The Problem of Pornography" and the series of essays "In Defense of Discrimination", "A Statute of Limitations for Race", "How to Handle Idiots", "Back Again", "Best of the Web gets It Very, Very Wrong" and  "The Danger Inherent in Banning "Bad Ideas""", all of which deal with relatively unpopular positions, while explaining why it is important to take a stand which so many emotionally oppose. And finally, I would suggest "Contradictory Beliefs and Practices", which takes a short look at why those who claim to oppose state control of the conscience, so often take steps that encourage just that.

Addendum (2012/11/24): I noticed that, in a few places, I apparently stopped writing for a while and picked back up without finishing the first thought. At least one sentence, the one about sexual relations being seen as properly taking place only within marriage, was left clearly unfinished. However, as I do not remember what my thought was, I cannot easily go back and fix it. So, flawed as this essay may be, I don't see an easy way to fix it. Thus, I will simply point out its flaws and admit to my mistakes.

20 comments:

  1. Great topic, Andrews. You said:

    >>”Whatever can be said about prostitution, it clearly does not violate anyone's rights,...”

    How do you know that? What are “rights” anyway?

    “Rights” are not issued forth from some unseen entity in the sky. We decide what our “rights” are, and they amount, essentially, to those freedoms that we agree we are willing (and most likely able) to defend.

    Prostitution is a bit like pollution. If a factory emits large amounts of black soot into the atmosphere as it engages in its business, that affects the surrounding area and the people living and working there, even though the factory could reasonably argue that they aren’t directly hurting anyone or violating anyone’s “rights.” But over time people have come to believe that they have the right to a certain amount of clean air, even though this is not explicitly covered in the Constitution. They have come together to declare and defend their “right” to clean air by passing laws against pollution, which they are able to enforce. So is this a valid “right” or not?

    Would you want to live next door to a house of prostitution? Would you want to explain to your son the type of business that goes on there? Would you want your son to be out playing as men come and go and as is typical, drugs are sold there to enhance the sex-for-sale experience? Would you want him to witness pimps treating women like animals, or worse – women treating themselves like animals?

    Even dogs know better than to poop in their own living space if they can avoid it, yet people – with all their intellectualism – will question their own right (or worse, the rights of their children), not to live among the poop.

    There’s a reason that most societies, over time and geography, instinctively tend to shun prostitution by way of law. It’s not merely a coincidence. Before we dismiss those instinctual behaviors and assume that we know better than all those other folks who came before us (and managed to preserve society up to this point), we would need to demonstrate that they were wrong. Can you do that?

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  2. Before you give the left the entire game, think about what you say. Rights are very simple and well defined, because they are the essentially required for one to exist. They are the rights to life, liberty and property. There are subsidiary rights associated with these, but rights are very simple and well defined.

    If you start trying to broaden the definition of "rights" to fight something you dislike, then you open the door to "rights" to education, healthcare, a good job, a living wage, and all the rest the left loves to use to make government all powerful.

    My argument is simple. Selling one's body, voluntarily, is not a violation of anyone's rights. If you want to stop it, then convince people not to do it. But I can see no compelling argument to allow the government to force one to stop. If you say "they should be stopped for their own good", then what limit is there to government's power? Again, as with the drug legalization argument, I cannot see how you can give government the ability to make people do what you think, or even many think, is in their best interest, without giving it unlimited power. You might think you can draw a line, but I would point to the commerce clause to show you how well that works.

    And, as far as shunning prostitution, yes, societies have found it offensive, others have had temple prostitutes, so it is not universally abhorred as you suggest. (And even many that opposed it on paper had no problem tacitly allowing brothels to exist, so long as they ran quietly. Even now, US strip bars are notorious for "selling bottles of champagne" for huge prices, including the companionship of a young lady, and very few are shut down. Ditto for most massage parlors in the US. It is something we say we despise, yet generally tolerate.) For the most part, governments have opposed it because of the difficulties of taxation, as with smuggling and a few other activities, but have also usually winked at the practice.

    Well, I see I have to write on this at much greater length, and I will when time allows.

    Until then, since I lack space to write out my full argument about rights, I suggest http://andrews.blogtownhall.com/2009/06/24/negative_and_positive_rights.thtml , http://andrews.blogtownhall.com/2009/09/08/the_inherent_disappointment_of_authoritarianism.thtml , http://andrews.blogtownhall.com/2009/09/08/symmetry_and_asymmetry_in_government.thtml and http://andrews.blogtownhall.com/2009/12/31/the_right_way.thtml . Those four posts explain best why rights are defined in the limited way they are, and must be so defined.

    I would also suggest http://andrews.blogtownhall.com/2012/09/17/the_case_for_small_government.thtml.

    Finally, until I can write a better and more thorough reply, as it deserves that, allow me to just point out that government is a solution to some problems, but not all. That is the problem of our age, and especially the left, seeking to use government as a panacea, a swiss army knife, solving everything. Some things, we may dislike, but they may be problems to be solved through social pressures, education, increased wealth, changes of heart, or, though it may upset us, they may be things we don't like which we must simply tolerate, as the alternative is much worse. If we don't accept that, we may end up solving some small problem at the expense of creating much, much larger ones.

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  3. Sorry all those links got mangled. Here they are in more readable form:

    http://andrews.blogtownhall.com/2009/06/24/negative_and_positive_rights.thtml

    http://andrews.blogtownhall.com/2009/09/08/the_inherent_disappointment_of_authoritarianism.thtml

    http://andrews.blogtownhall.com/2009/09/08/symmetry_and_asymmetry_in_government.thtml

    http://andrews.blogtownhall.com/2009/12/31/the_right_way.thtml

    http://andrews.blogtownhall.com/2012/09/17/the_case_for_small_government.thtml

    Hopefully those will print right, though I am never sure with the formatting comment get here.

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  4. Well, guess that is the best I can do. Sorry if they are a little hard to read, or use as links. I guess if you really want to follow them, you will find a way. In any case, I will be writing a better reply, so they will be linked in that post, which may be easier than trying to use these.

    Good to hear from you. Hope Thanksgiving went well. Mine was quiet, but relaxing.

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  5. Sorry for a few typos in my reply. And I really will offer you a more thorough reply when time allows. I understand that this is one of those issues which often create problems for my argument, as it is difficult to argue for the primacy of individual rights when it involves allowing actions most find distasteful or worse. Just as with my argument that we have to allow store owners to discriminate, or employers, or that drugs should be allowed, or that licensing of professions is pointless, I know I will encounter a lot of resistance. And it would be easier if I could gloss over it, or make exceptions.

    But, as I have said many times, once you make those exceptions, you open the door for the other side, make arguments they can use to undermine everything in which I believe. And so, whether it makes for difficult, uncomfortable arguments or not, I must stay true to my beliefs.

    And so, I promise to write a more thorough explanation as soon as I can. I would write something short now, but it would probably do more harm than good. It is best to wait until I can give it my full attention, allow myself time to think, and write the best response I can.

    So, please give me a little time, but trust I will reply.

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    1. Hi Andrews,

      I had a great Thanksgiving, thank you. My dinner came out perfect, the conversation flowed at dinner, the football games were competitive (for a change!) and my husband did most of the dishes. It doesn’t get much better than that.

      You make me smile because you write twice as much as me and then apologize for the incomplete reply. I think what you wrote was fine. I should tell you that I argued this topic many times with the anarchist, so it’s a bit of a hot topic for me and probably I’m a little wound up as I’ve had no one to argue with lately. I appreciate that you are a good debater, both in the sense that you are intelligent and you actually have manners.

      I don’t mean to get ahead of you but I’d already written a response so I’ll post it and if you have more later I will address that as well.

      In regards to prostitution, there are two separate arguments to consider. The first has to do with rights, and the second has to do with whether or not is harmful to individuals and to society. That’s a very important distinction. One can believe they are within their rights to regulate something, such as pollution, but choose not to do so for practical reasons. Let’s look at the “rights” question first.

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    2. You said,”Rights are very simple and well defined...They are the rights to life, liberty and property. “

      But who says so? It is important to understand that life, liberty and property are our assumed rights because WE declared them to be our rights in the Declaration of Independence. It was, in essence, a declaration of what freedoms we were willing to defend as a nation.

      >>”If you start trying to broaden the definition of "rights" to fight something you dislike, then you open the door to "rights" to education, healthcare, a good job, a living wage, and all the rest the left loves to use to make government all powerful.”

      It’s not a matter of broadening rights. It’s a matter of competing rights. But first let me say that the difference between life, liberty and happiness and the right to things like education and healthcare is that one can presumably exercise their right to life, liberty and happiness without creating an obligation or indenture on the part of anyone else. In contrast, the right to healthcare or education essentially places other people into servitude to satisfy that “right.” No one should have such a “right.”

      But prostitution is an entirely different question. It has to do with the HIERARCHY OF RIGHTS. Consider the right to pursue happiness, for instance. Serial killers pursue happiness by killing other people. Obviously, the pursuit of their right to happiness conflicts with the right of others to live. Thus, society has established a hierarchy of rights when such conflicts occur. No one’s right to pursue happiness supersedes the rights of others to live.

      I see prostitution in a similar light. Theoretically, sex for money between consenting adults should be a private issue. But realistically history clearly demonstrates that it’s not that simple. The business of prostitution brings a lot of unwanted things to the community: advertisements for sex, street walkers, sex in cars, alleys, parks, etc, drugs, pimps, violence... What would happen to the value of YOUR house if the people next door turned their home into a house of prostitution? What would that do to your right to pursue happiness by living and raising your son in a safe, uplifting environment? Why, under those circumstances, do you think the rights of the prostitute are superior to your own? There are going to be cases (millions of them, in fact) when people’s rights conflict. At such times it then becomes a simple matter of democracy. Some may not like that but that is how we resolve the conflict of competing rights.

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    3. I want to mention something else that is of the utmost importance and yet often ignored, especially by Libertarians. If you believe in the rights of the individual, then you should also believe equally in the rights of the society taken as whole. That’s because the two are inseparable and cannot exist without the other. Too often Libertarians tend to be a bit obsessed with the rights of the individual, and they dismiss society as little more than a necessary evil. But society is a bit like a host organism. If it is healthy, the things that are living on it can thrive as well. But if the host becomes sick, everyone is in danger.

      This is essential to understanding the conservative view on things like prostitution. Prostitution and all of the ills that go with it degrade society. If you question that statement, just compare the areas of this nation where prostitution is well contained to where it is rampantly uncontrolled. Tell me which area has the more flourishing society. Tell me where you would prefer to live. No, prostitution by itself would not be the downfall of society. However, it is one in a whole series of things that people do that, when taken together, are potentially destructive. As often happens, the healthy host that was cultivated by prior generations is taken for granted by modern generations who begin to cannibalize the host in the belief that they really can have their cake and eat it too. Prostitution, drugs, abortion on demand, gay marriage... All of which (NOT coincidentally) go hand in hand with the liberal of agenda of entitlement creation, welfare, etc. Do we, as a society, have a right to protect ourselves from the things that contribute to our own destruction? I say yes. Life, liberty and happiness cannot be pursued in the absence of a healthy society.

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    4. >>”Selling one's body, voluntarily, is not a violation of anyone's rights.”

      True, but all the other stuff that goes along with it violates MY rights, as declared by me. As I said, sometimes rights are a simple matter of what you are willing to defend.

      >>”If you want to stop it, then convince people not to do it.”

      No one tries to reason with me not to drive 100 mph or use my cell phone in a school zone – they just make a law. That’s because they believe the safety of their children takes precedence over my desire to drive fast or chat on the phone in that particular time and space. And they are right (and even if they are not right they outnumber me). So, since I believe I am protecting my rights by regulating activities that could be harmful to me and my family, I will not be wasting my breath trying to reason with prostitutes while I am in the majority.

      “I can see no compelling argument to allow the government to force one to stop. If you say "they should be stopped for their own good", then what limit is there to government's power?

      I hope you will address what I said above, and explain why it’s not compelling. I don’t want to stop it for THEIR OWN good. I want to stop it for my own good and the good of my children and yours.

      Finally, I understand that prostitution goes on under-the-table (not literally, of course. Well, maybe...), and that it is even accepted in certain societies. That’s their choice, and as I said, I am for democracy in this instance. I don’t expect that we can control it all, just as we can’t control all murder, robbery and rape. Needless to say, though, that doesn’t mean we should just surrender ourselves and our society to those who would destroy it.

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  6. I don't have time to respond to everything here, but I will address one issue, the rights of society a a whole. Such a thing does not exist. Rights are an individual issue, there is no such thing as the rights of society, only the rights of individuals who make up society. Your formulation, if taken seriously, would justify all manner of abuses, basically any group or individual saying he or she spoke for society and forcing his will on others. If not, how do we determine the "rights of society"? By vote?And if the desires of that majority, or vocal minority violate the rights of individuals, then what wins?

    No, what you propose is no different than the left's formulation of a "right to a job" or a "right to education". By misusing the idea of rights, you open the door to unlimited governmental power and the violation of individual rights.

    To make my point, what if "society as a whole" decides that it is in its interest to execute a given individual arbitrarily? What should happen? Or if it decides to appropriate the wealth of a few individuals for the benefit of all? What then? By your formulation, you create basically the form of government against which you often argue. And for the same reasons. By destroying a proper understanding of rights, as something limited, negative and individual, and creating fictional "rights", you allow the government unlimited power.

    That is why we must understand rights properly, and also distinguish between things that we dislike and things that violate the rights of others. By saying the state can basically enforce majority will, (which is what you "rights of society" boils down to), you could justify anything from ObamaCare to Nazis to Communism. That is why we must keep government limited to its proper function, and solve other issues through other means, or, if we must, accept that some things we dislike might exist.

    As I have said before about the free market, limited government may not be perfect, but it is better than the alternatives.

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    1. >>”Rights are an individual issue, there is no such thing as the rights of society,...”

      That’s a valid point. I should have referred to the “interests” of society, not the “rights” of society. The rights that I am referring to are still exercised by the INDIVIDUAL.

      Let me explain what I see as the difference between the types of “rights” I am referring to and the “rights” you mentioned like education, jobs and healthcare. I see it as within my rights to STOP OR LIMIT behaviors that interfere or could potentially interfere with my right to life, liberty or happiness (let’s call those “passive laws”). I do NOT see it as within my rights to require people to DO things, such as pay for my education, healthcare, or provide me with a job (let’s call those “aggressive laws”).

      Yes, it’s true that passive laws open the door to all kinds of abuse, but the same could be said for our declaration to our right to pursue happiness. What if happiness means masturbating in a restaurant (before you scoff, a woman was recently arrested for that)? What if it means playing the drums in your apartment all night? What if it means driving while severely intoxicated and texting on your cell phone? What if it means placing your hand on the thigh of the stranger sitting next to you on a bus? The world is a never ending series of people constantly asserting “rights” simply by acting them out. It goes with the territory of being part of a society. I reject the notion that I must tolerate the behaviors of everyone else but disregard my own rights in the name of limited government.

      To me the concept of limited government has more to do with (1) centralization; and (2) preventing or limiting “aggressive” laws.

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  7. One last thought, you argue that controlled prostitution makes for a healthier society, but I would argue Greeks and Romans conquered the world with no controls on prostitutes. Even today many nations which we consider developed have some legal form of prostitution. (A fact often forgotten about England, for example.) So, while you may cherry pick some examples, the truth is, there is no real pattern correlating restriction of prostitution to cultural health or well being.

    Just to make one simple example, the state of Nevada is not noticeably more or less robust than its neighbors, nor is Las Vegas richer than the surrounding areas because it bans prostitution while the rest of the state does not.

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    1. But what eventually happened to the Greeks and Romans? I’m not good with world history (any history, actually) but I think I recall something about the fall of those civilizations, at least as they existed back then.

      Per Wikipedia, “Nevada is the only U.S. state to allow legal prostitution, albeit only in the form of regulated brothels. Prostitution outside these licensed brothels is illegal under Nevada law.” So the activity of prostitution is still regulated, presumably to curtail or control the very types of negative things I mentioned earlier. Therefore, it is neither an example of free market prostitution working just swell nor is it an example of limited government. In fact, I would venture to guess that by regulating prostitution the state probably has MORE laws on its books to deal with it than do states that outlaw it altogether.

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  8. To make one point clear, I am not here to champion prostitution. I AM here to champion proper limits on government, a proper definition of rights and a truthful view of history. Thus, I find myself sounding as if I am arguing for prostitutes, and that is not the case. All I would argue is your emotions have the best of you here. Were a liberal to say the government is the source of all rights, or rights are what the majority says, you would tear them apart, but in this case you accept it as it supports your cause. As the cliche says, hard cases make bad law, and here you are making bad arguments because you feel strongly.

    I am busy right now, but I will write my complete response. It has changed shape since I read these replies, but I still have a lot of it sketched out in my head, so I hope to get it written down tonight, or, at latest, tomorrow.

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    1. I understand Andrews, and like you I am not here to be the Carrie Nation of prostitution. I think we are both more interested in the basic arguments of how rights are properly defined.

      >>“Were a liberal to say the government is the source of all rights..”

      I never said that. In fact, you were the one who said, “Rights are very simple and well defined, because they are the essentially required for one to exist. They are the rights to life, liberty and property.” Either you are paraphrasing from the Declaration of Independence, which was written on behalf of the states by their appointed representatives (i.e. GOVERNMENT), or you are presuming to define them for yourself, which is basically the same as I was doing with regards to prostitution. That was precisely why I asked you (twice) how you know what your rights are or where they come from.

      You say rights are simple but I think they are quite complicated. In fact, the primary source of all conflict here and around the world is disagreement over what our rights are and what the rights of others are. I first began seriously examining the issue when a TH blogger (who considers himself libertarian leaning) wrote a post about his “unalienable” rights, saying that he owned his dog, for instance, and could abuse it if he chose to do so. If that’s his “right,” I wondered, how is it that virtually all towns have laws against animal abuse that would prevent him from exercising it? Another blogger from the Left declared that people have the right to a job, food, housing and healthcare. If that’s the case, I wondered, why are there people without a job, food, housing or healthcare? What do “rights” mean anyway, and where do they REALLY come from?
      I don’t agree that the blogger had the right to abuse his dog and if I came along and found him doing so I would do what I could to prevent him from exercising his “right.” If someone tries to forcibly take my money to exercise their right to food, housing or healthcare, I will do my best to defend MY right to keep my money; however, Obamacare is now the law of the land and half the country is on food stamps so am I really able to defend the right to my own property and, if not, what does that say about my “right?”

      So, I’m sorry but I don’t think it’s simple at all.

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  9. I am afraid I missed your terribly polite and kind reply ab out Thanksgiving, and must say thank you for saying I have manners. I try my best to argue in a civil manner. Even with those who are much less polite than you are. It is a sign of how annoying the Idiot Twins were that I eventually gave up on being civil.

    As I wrote before, I think civil discourse is important, as (1) it is our only real hope of persuading others of their errors, since hostile debate tends to set us in our positions and (2) civil debate allows bystanders to evaluate our arguments, rather than dismissing them because of our tone. As I hope to persuade and/or educate, if only a handful of those who read this, I feel it is my duty to remain civil.

    On the other hand, I do worry at times that I may not sound as polite as I hope to sound, so it is nice to hear that I am succeeding.

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    1. Yes, I think you are very polite and I know that I can be quite aggravating at times (at least I have that reputation here at home). Reasonable people are going to disagree sometimes. They should be able to have a good debate.

      Anyone can be forgiven for losing their cool with the idiot twins. They bring out the worst in everyone. I sank to their level more than a few times, but oh well.

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  10. By the way, that "persuade and/or educate" might have sounded a bit arrogant. I don't for a moment think I have all the answers, or know more than every reader. I have learned many things from others in the course of writing this blog, and have also learned even more by trying to answer questions others raised. So I know I am far from perfect. However, I do like to think I have a different perspective on some issues, and may even be right on a few. So, I hope that by putting out my ideas I may persuade some people on a few issues, raise interesting questions for others, and through these arguments manage to expand the understanding both I am my readers have of a number of issues.

    So, I suppose it is not as arrogant as it sounds, since one of those I am educating is myself.

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    1. I think all bloggers hope to persuade and I often find you very persuasive. Still, I like to argue with you. Don’t ask me why. I just do. :)

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  11. Sorry it has taken me so long to post again. I was busier than I thought. I will try to wrap up a new post today, or, at worst, over the weekend.

    Again, sorry for the delay.

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