Thinking About Prostitution

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Whenever a politician gets caught up in a prostitution scandal, I do need to return to the fact that at the end of the day I don't really think the exchange of sex for money is serious wrongdoing in the sense that justifies criminal sanctions. Obviously, in most cases such conduct will be a form of private wrongdoing against one's spouse, etc., but that's not a matter of public concern. For a public official, however, there's an unusually large dose of hypocrisy involved here. It would be within the power of Elliot Spitzer to propose changes to New York State's prostitution laws and, indeed, Spitzer probably ought to propose such changes. But insofar as a politician isn't going to take that kind of stand, it's only right and proper that he be punished for violating laws whose justice he himself has, in his public role, proclaimed faith in.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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