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Ross Douthat and Noah Millman, two of the world’s smartest bloggers, are having a terrific debate about the ideal legal status of prostitution, and by extension, morals legislation generally.

Ross ends his most recent post with this:

Or so I would argue. Obviously, these sort of judgments are prudential rather than definitive, and I’m not sure where I would draw the line in many instances. And one appeal of setting a “consenting adults” standard on morals legislation, rather than the more latitudinarian standards I’ve suggested, is that it removes at least some of the subjective element from these debates. But I don’t have really have a problem with a standard for morals legislation that leaves vast gray areas where people can argue back and forth: That’s why we have the democratic process.

It seems to me that such vast gray areas define why morals legislation is almost the paradigmatic candidate for the kind of subsidiarity that I discussed in a prior post

Several counties in Nevada allow legalized prostitution.  As far as I’m concerned, this is just one more on a long list of reasons not to live in Nevada.  (Las Vegas: Hell, with an excellent marketing department.)  But, on the other hand, Nevada is one of the fastest-growing jurisdictions in the United States, so obviously millions of people disagree with me.

If we all admit the possibility that we’re wrong (or perhaps wrong for some people at some times), then allowing lots of latitude for local difference strikes me as not only politically advantageous, but also the most principled stand to take.



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