I had little interest in debating the legality of prostitution, but then a well-known governor was brought down largely because of the issue, and I had an opportunity to discuss the case in a public forum. Since last I wrote about the debate, several people have added some good comments in my defense. The quotes below are taken from the comments section following a letter that criticized me.
In her critical letter, Susan Williams wrote, “If Speakout writer Ari Armstrong thinks he is purchasing his wife’s favors when he pays for groceries or dinner out, I’ll bet my hat that is an opinion he has not yet shared with his wife.” Brian Schwartz sensibly pointed out that Williams’s statement is “a blatant personal attack on Mr. Armstrong’s character.”
Susan Williams completely missed the point of Ari Armstrong’s Speakout. He stated that prostitution is a vice, is degrading and should be morally condemned. On this they agree.
Instead of responding to his reasons for advocating that prostitution should be illegal, she viciously attacked him, making an ad hominen argument, and claimed that no one wants their daughters to be prostitutes. No similar statement about the sons.
The question remains: Why should a moral vice like prostitution be illegal when infidelity, indiscriminate sex, lying to achieve a personal advantage, and other vices are not illegal? To this question Ms. Williams has no answer except she doesn’t like it. That’s no answer.
She should re-read the Speakout, apologize to Mr. Armstrong for her attack, and give reasons if she has them. If not, she should keep quiet.
N. Provenso chimes in:
Susan Williams’ letter is grossly unfair and personally insulting to Ari Armstrong. Armstrong clearly articulated the reasons why prostitution is vice but ought to be legal; in reply, Williams’ shows she didn’t even consider Armstrong’s argument and instead chose to lob an inappropriate personal attack and straw man his position.
Should everything that is a vice but does not violate the rights of others be made illegal? Too much fast food? Smoking? Excessive alcohol consumption? Responding to an op-ed you haven’t read?
Paul Hsieh writes, in part, “[O]one of the best virtues of America is the fact that we are able to distinguish between immoral acts that should *not* be illegal (such as prostitution) and immoral acts that *should* be illegal (such as rape or theft). The first does not involve any initiation of force or fraud, whereas the second does. And that makes all the difference.”
Diana Hsieh adds, “Ms. Williams’ letter exemplifies so much of what is wrong with political discourse in America today. It’s bad enough that she grossly misrepresents Ari Armstrong’s views by claiming that he endorses prostitution, but the personal attack on him (and his wife) should have qualified this letter for the circular file.”
I appreciate this support.
To date, I have seen no reply to my original article that attempts to rebut my arguments.
There are a couple of points still worth pursuing. First, I offered only a hint of why prostitution is a vice; much more can be said on that matter. (I was not surprised that some libertarian critics took issue with my claim that prostitution is a vice.) Second, I didn’t make clear in my original article what the laws should be regarding the trade of prostitution on “public” property. The ultimate answer is that the property should not be public. But, so long as it is, I think the law may properly prevent people from offering and soliciting prostitution there, for the same reasons that people cannot sell alcohol or guns on the street corners. But the main issue is whether prostitution should be legal among consenting adults on private property.