The Right Coast

Editor: Thomas A. Smith
University of San Diego
School of Law

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Legalized Prostitution?
Mike Rappaport

A couple of interesting posts on legalizing prostitution.  First, there is evidence that condom use in the legalized brothels of Nevada is extremely high, whereas it is quite low among illegal prostitutes.  Adding to the problem for illegal prostitutes, they apparently have to give "freebies" to police and others to avoid arrest or violence in illegal settings. 

Given this, one might ask why legalized prostitution is so rare.  This paper uses public choice analysis to conclude that illegal prostitution continues in places like Las Vegas because  of "lower employment costs for casino and hotel owners due to kick backs received by hotel employees from prostitutes and their customers, the interests of rural governments to maximize revenues from tourism generated by brothels, and the interest of Las Vegas legislators to portray the town as family-friendly maintains the status quo of illegality."  Even if the rural areas of Nevada  where prostitution is legal, apparently it is "stunted by unequal bargaining power between the prostitutes and brothel owners owing to collusive arrangements with local sheriffs."

In the end, then, the illegality of prostitution in Nevada appears to be due to one version of a bootleggers and baptists story.

Hat tip: Marginal Revolution and Instapundit.

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Mike Rappaport


It's more realistic in Nevada to to not think that prostitution is legal but rather that pimping is. One cannot, anywhere, in Nevada, work as a "private contactor" so to speak in a prostitution business- one can only work for a particular group, a brothel, or, in other words, a pimp. It's no surprise that this turns out to be a bad deal in many ways for many groups of people. (To my mind the best solution is to make the selling of sex legal, to make pimping illegal, and, at least in many cases, to make the buying of sex illegal. My reasons for supporting such measures, though, have to do more with the desire to stop human trafficing and the fact that this sort of system seems to be the best at doing so more than any other reason.)

Posted by: Matt | Jan 13, 2008 8:28:19 PM