Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Free-market for victimless crimes

Amit Varma's India Uncut has been one of my favourite blogs since I started following it some months back. One of the chief reasons for it is his ability to opinionate logically with the strictest economy of words. The second and most significant reason is that he contradicts me on so many points and in so many ways that it is impossible not to be intellectually stimulated.

Take this article as an example. It clashes with some closely-held beliefs that some of us - sane and logical for the most part - hold.
"Take me, for example: I sell my skills as a writer, limited as they are, to write pieces such as this one. You no doubt have a job that involves selling your skills as well. Many people trade not their intellectual skills but physical labour. Most such trades, made to mutual benefit, are considered respectable. But when a prostitute offers her sexual services, that is somehow considered improper and unethical.

What is even odder is that in most countries, if two consenting adults get together and have sex, the state will not interfere – unless money has changed hands. On one hand, we sanctimoniously frown upon sex; on the other, we frown at commerce. The human race would not exist without either of these two."
It is, perhaps, human tendency to judge prostitution through a moral prism. Morality is, strictly speaking, a personal thing - all of us have different standards and parameters of judgement. Our error is in overlapping moral opinion with state-sanctioned law. Yet, straight logical argument lays bare this fallacy in a few words - there is an undeniable (and ironic) truth in what Amit says in the second (quoted) paragraph.

Even his points about drug-usage are valid, I think. Here the objections are perhaps louder - given the possibly fatal consequences of decriminalisatioin and free-market-mechanism working in the case of drugs. Yet, in effect, if addiction is a punishable crime, so is attempting suicide.

Democracy allows everyone the choice to decide for himself/herself, unless the choice jeopardises or infringes the similar rights of another. It may be argued with some truth that the family of a drug-addict is affected, but that is a problem resting within the private domain of the individual - the state should have nothing to do or say about it.

As for Amit's solutions, I agree with him fully. Bringing businesses like prostitution, betting and drug-sale within the ambit of law and opening up the market to free competition will eliminate the functions of the mafia to a good extent, besides extending legal aid to marginalised outcasts like sex-workers and junkies. As has been cited, Netherlands is a good example of how well this system has worked. In a somewhat related note, Japan - the third highest porn-manufacturing country in the world - has some of the lowest rates of sex-related crimes.

"Within Japan itself, the dramatic increase in available pornography and sexually explicit materials is apparent to even a casual observer. This is concomitant with a general liberalization of restrictions on other sexual outlets as well. Also readily apparent from the information presented is that, over this period of change, sex crimes in every category, from rape to public indecency, sexual offenses from both ends of the criminal spectrum, significantly decreased in incidence.

Most significantly, despite the wide increase in availability of pornography to children, not only was there a decrease in sex crimes with juveniles as victims but the number of juvenile offenders also decreased significantly."

 Is this proof enough?
 But, of course, even a vocal proposition like this in touchy India is going to throw up flames.


Rohith J said...

Interesting ideas...But these measures are absolutely unthinkable in a country like India especially in the southern states where it's extremely conservative.

Sudipto Basu said...

Is thoughtlessness another name for conservatism?