Month: December 2016

On Prostitution

I recently read a book called ‘Ceremony’ by Robert B Parker, in which the hero, a principled and moral private eye named Spenser, encounters a teenager who has run away from home and gone into prostitution. She was exploited by a pimp, and ended up in a bad situation, but he rescues her. However, her home life was also awful, and instead of sending her home, he sets her up with a high-class madam, and she continues as a prostitute.

Now, this story did not change my opinions upon prostitution one bit, but I thought it was a good reminder that I should talk about prostitution, and my views of it.

First, I have nothing against prostitution. It is just another profession. It is a service profession, meaning that a prostitute sells services. Now, in some cases, prostitutes are exploited and in very bad situations that I believe are unethical and illegal – but I do not believe prostitution itself falls under this category.

  1. What do prostitutes sell?

There is a prevalent notion that prostitutes ‘sell themselves.’ In truth, they do not. In fact, it is not really possible to ‘sell oneself.’ Apart from, perhaps, selling full-on slavery – and even that might not be selling oneself. After all, a slave obeys their master, on pain of punishment or death – but does that really mean belonging to them, or selling oneself to them? It is an interesting philosophical question – namely, what is the nature of slavery? And who is a slave? But in any case, fundamentally, a prostitute is a person who performs sexual acts in exchange for money.

Now, such a person could be a slave. However, in principle, such a person could decide whether to perform the service on a case by case basis. And in fact, each sex act is a service.

By comparison, when I work as a professor, I sell my knowledge and give lectures. And in fact, I am not allowed to decide to whom I will lecture. My university decides who can take my class. So, I am forced to sell my services to customers, and I have no choice in who those customers are. Am I a prostitute? The only difference between myself and a prostitute is that I sell mathematics lecturing as a service, while a prostitute sells sexual contact as a service. Similarly, some people claim prostitutes ‘sell their bodies.’ Do I ‘sell my mind’ because I give lectures to people (people I cannot choose, cannot veto, whom I required to lecture)? No more than prostitutes sell their bodies or themselves when they give sexual services in exchange for money.

2. Prostitutes are often in bad situations.

This is absolutely true. Many prostitutes are in awful situations. The stereotypical prostitute in an American city is a woman who has nothing of her own, who ‘belongs to’ a pimp who takes all her earnings and gives her nothing of her own, but does provide a place for her to stay and protects her from legal ramifications and from violent customers.

Now, I am the first to say that such pimping is unethical and should be illegal. But notice that the problem here is that the pimp is treating the prostitute as a slave. Imagine if a woman worked as a professor, but there were some man who took her paychecks for himself, beat her if she disobeyed him, and in exchange, only provided her a place to stay and protected her from potentially violent students. Or consider that many sneakers are produced by children in sweatshops in Asia. Does that make shoemaking unethical? Is it unethical for a person to produce shoes and sell them for money, just because some children are exploited into sweatshop shoemaking labour? No more than prostitution is evil just because pimps exploit prostitutes.

For that matter, the fact that prostitutes can be exploited by prostitutes is only exacerbated by the fact that prostitution is illegal. When something which is in demand is illegal, fulfilling that demand attracts people who are otherwise criminals anyway – during Prohibition, violent criminals turned to providing liquor, not because liquor is evil, but because there was a demand, and there was no legal way to meet that demand. Now, there is a demand for prostitutes, but no legal way to provide it in most places, and as a result, it is easy for violent criminals to work to fulfill that demand.

So, I have no objection to prostitution. In fact, I am pro-prostitution. I am opposed to pimping, insofar as the pimps exploit prostitutes rather than working as bodyguards for the prostitutes (I can see how prostitutes could use bodyguards, but the bodyguards should be employees of the prostitutes, not the other way around).

The US government is not meant to give equal representation to individuals

The recent presidential election has once again given the victory to a candidate who did not win the popular vote. And the people who support the loser have been complaining about this.

Now first, let me note, these people support Clinton, who got superdelegates far out of proportion from her popular votes in the primary. So for any supporter of Clinton to complain about how electoral votes should be proportional to primary votes, I have absolutely ZERO sympathy. In fact, even regular delegates are basically like electoral votes – they can, mathematically, mean that a person can win without winning the overall popular vote. So, no, I have zero sympathy for Clinton or her supporters. And in fact, I was rooting for Trump to beat her (not because I like Trump, but because I hate Clinton). And in the past, people have won the electoral college without winning the popular vote who have become presidents we now consider some of the best – Lincoln, for example.

But, what I want to talk about for a moment is not about the 2016 election or any other election. What I want to say is this: if you are complaining because the president does not give equal representation to each individual, you are misunderstanding the federal government’s design.

Here is the thing. If your complaint is that the electoral college does not give equal weight to each individual’s vote, when choosing the president, you are correct. But guess what. The entire federal government is chosen in a manner that does not depend upon giving equal weight to the votes of individual citizens!

Let us ignore for a moment the presidential election, and focus upon congress. Now, the House of Representatives gives a number of representatives to each state which is proportional to the number of citizens in that state. Therefore, the House gives roughly equal weight to each individual, in theory (that is, ignoring the fact that states can gerrymander).

However, the senate does not give a number of senators based on the number of citizens in a given state. In fact, the senate gives two senators for each state, no matter what the population of the state. Therefore, a state such as Vermont, with a single representative, gets two senators, the same as a state like California, with 40+ representatives but just 2 senators. Therefore, in the senate, a Vermonter gets twenty times as much representation per person as a Californian! In congress as an whole, a Vermonter gets 12 times as much representation as a Californian, maybe more.

In terms of the electoral college, this applies as well. Vermont gets 3 electoral votes, despite having only a population to attain one representative, while California still just has 40+ electoral votes. So, Vermonters count almost 3x as much as Californians – or they would, if states gave electoral votes proportionally.

The point is, if you want a federal government that represents each individual citizen equally, the US government was never designed to do that. The senate wasn’t designed that way. The presidential election via electoral votes wasn’t designed that way. The Supreme Court wasn’t designed that way, with it’s being appointed by the president for life!

The US was designed to be a union of states. And as such, it was designed to represent states, not individuals. Deal with it.

Now, I’m not necessarily agreeing with the design of the US federal government. For one thing I think people’s votes should be weighted according to their intelligence, with idiots getting far less say in federal government than smart people, and maybe with SJWs getting freely deported to the Islamic Republics that they claim to love so much. But, the people who complain about the electoral college often claim to do it based upon their love of equal representation for each citizen, and also claim that the US is built upon that principle. And it was NOT built upon that principle at all.