Thursday, May 25, 2006

Column on Victimless Crimes

Freedom to ?Escort?

Tibor R. Machan

In a region in Florida where a newspaper for which I write columns is
published we can witness a rather direct confrontation between some
citizens and the nanny state. The case reportedly involves the ?owners of
two local escort services ? Destin?s Angels and Florida Dream Girls?[who
are] are facing possible prison time on charges they used escorting as a
front for other crimes,? the State Attorney?s Office says. ?These escort
agencies were fronts for prostitution,? Okaloosa County Sheriff?s Office
spokeswoman Michele Nicholson told reporters.

The details are not important here, although matters are complicated by
the fact that in addition to the escort services being offered, a raid on
some of the establishments also yielded illegal drugs. But even that is
beside the point since the drugs were not injuring anyone apart perhaps
from those who used them. So the bottom line is that the local authorities
were flexing their muscles by going after a bunch of criminals without any

Of course this kind of case is legion in America and has been for
decades. The supposed leader of the free world, to which people come from
all corners of the globe to escape oppression and harassment, is itself,
in fact, engaged in plenty of oppression and harassment. America?s crime
rate is embarrassingly high precisely because its criminals include
thousands and thousands of men and women who have done nothing more vile
than to sell, buy, and consume substances that are no more dangerous than
ordinary alcohol and have engaged in sexual liaisons that leave a lot to
be desired from the point of view of romance and family values.

OK, it should really not be argued that prostitution is nice or that
people ought to enjoy themselves by means of drug abuse. What is worth
pointing out, however, is how utterly sad it is that our lawmakers and law
enforcers place so little trust in citizens who are facing the temptation
to do such things and who think they have the moral authority to

Let's face it?there are always temptations awaiting us all to get
involved in immoral, wrongheaded, imprudent, self-destructive or salacious
undertakings. But in a free society people are expected to deal with
these without some dictator, tyrant or even well-meaning nanny ordering
them to desist.

Sure, there is a long tradition in most places around the globe to ban
acting on such temptations, to lock up those who provide the temptation
and those who yield to it. This is because, sadly, too many people
throughout human history haven't become convinced that personal
responsibility is better than paternalism when it comes to dealing with
adult human beings.

The plain fact is, however, that in a truly free country resistance to
temptation would come from the individual, his or her family, friends,
service organizations, churches, etc., not the law (the task of which is
to secure our rights, not to run our lives). That even Americans can
dispute this just shows how far we all are from fulfilling the true
meaning of the revolution that created their country, one that rests on
the idea that everyone has the unalienable rights to life, liberty and
pursuit of happiness, among others. A serious appreciation for what that
means would inform us that however morally objectionable some conduct is,
free men and women may not be stopped from engaging in it other than by
advice, urging, ostracism and other peaceful means. Only if conduct
violates rights, may it rise to the level of a crime!

Yes, this is not the greatest incursion on our liberties we find in our
country but it is nonetheless one that needs to be stopped. And if it
cannot be stopped because of the stubbornness of all those who just have
to meddle in other people?s lives by means of coercive laws and
regulations, at least some of us need to point out just how contrary to
the sprit and letter of freedom such policies are. Then, perhaps, after
the full implication of the principles of freedom become more widely
appreciated, public opinion and policies may develop that do not treat
people as wards of government, infants in need of nannies to run their

In other words, then, perhaps, freedom will truly reign.

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