Friday, March 03, 2006

Brothels in Milwaukee? Let the Market Decide!

I have a public policy proposal to make. In an attempt to reinvigorate Milwaukee’s economy, which is undoubtedly the economic hub of Wisconsin as a whole, we should legalize prostitution and subsequently allow for the operation of brothels in the city.

All of those male tourists heading to locations such as Thailand or rural Nevada each year will instead come here to vacation. It will be great for the hotel business, and it will certainly have a positive fiscal impact on certain retail shops along with other establishments like restaurants and bars in the area.

We could even allow some booths to be opened at places like Summerfest as a way to piggy-back the industry on already successful Milwaukee attractions. Now that’s what I call synergy!

Besides, in America we’re all about letting the market decide, right? The market in Bangkok and just outside of Las Vegas has shown brothels can be a hit, so why not get in on the action in Milwaukee?

If you haven’t been able to guess by now, my proposal is tongue-in-cheek. Brothels and prostitution are denigrating to women and detrimental to society as a whole. Milwaukee is right to outlaw prostitution for a number of good reasons. But none of those reasons has anything to do with the market.

The goal of this insincere proposal is to make a point about the smoking ban debate that has reached Milwaukee in recent days. Such bans already have been instituted in nearly 450 cities and 11 states across the country; the most notable ban for a Wisconsin municipality started in Madison last year.

Those who oppose the smoking ban largely rest their argument on the basis that it should be up to each individual establishment whether or not to allow for smoking. If people don’t like it, they can go elsewhere. And if enough people go elsewhere, the establishments that allow for smoking will surely put an end to it. That’s the beauty of the market, they conclude. Government has no business getting involved.

Unfortunately for this argument, as is the case with a similar argument that could be made for prostitution in brothels, governments have an obligation to make decisions that include consideration for the public good (or, in this case, public health) of the community—regardless of what the market dictates.

It is certainly worthwhile to have a public debate on the smoking ban issue. In fact, I don’t know completely where I come down on the issue.

Since smoking is a legal activity for individuals in this state, it’s a worthy argument that some establishments should be open for those people who choose to smoke—like cigar bars. But it doesn’t mean that every type of establishment that currently allows for smoking in Milwaukee—such as restaurants—must continue to be granted that ability.

In other words, a line on smoking must be drawn somewhere in spite of its legality as an activity.
And where we draw that line cannot solely rest upon claims about the freedom of the marketplace because that is not how we expect governments to formulate public policy in this country. Any resolution to the issue needs to keep in mind the public good as a whole because that is a big part of what’s at stake.

3 Comments:

Blogger Dailytakes said...

Seth,

While prostitution is illegal and the selling of sex is illegal, smoking and the sale of cigs are not.

Smoking bans ignore the private property rights of the bar and restaurant owners.

Health concerns regarding second hand smoke ignore the free will of employees and customers.

March 03, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Brian,

I acknowledge that prostitution is illegal while smoking is not, which is why I think smoking should be allowed in some privately owned places like cigar bars.

However, just because something is legal doesn't prevent government from regulating it in order to help promote the public good.

A line must be drawn somewhere, which is already the case with smoking. There are already some privately owned establishments that are outlawed by the State of Wisconsin from allowing smoking, such as movie theaters and physicians' offices, because it was determined that to allow smoking in these places would negatively impact the public good.

The discussion over the smoking ban in Milwaukee is about where we want to move that line--not about whether a line should exist because one already does.

Besides, if you want to argue that free will should be the dominant concern in public policy, then give me one good reason why prostitution should not be legalized.

Every reason I can think of for outlawing prostitution stems from the fact that it is widely regarded as denigrating to women and detrimental to the public good--not a single one has anything to do with free will.

March 03, 2006  
Blogger Mr. mXp said...

alcohol is legal, but we restrict it's sale and use.

you can't buy it after nine pm. why? why not let a private business and the free market dictate? wanna buy beer at 1 AM at the 24 hour sock and shoe store, why not?! let the free market decide!

i can't drink a beer on the sidewalk while waiting for a bus. but it's legal, right?

we regulate a lot of things in the name of public safety.

March 03, 2006  

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