Waltman says that there's a lot of debate in Sweden because some people inside and outside the industry still want straight-out legalization but that no systematic studies have shown that the law has made sex work worse or riskier.
In the end, this seems like the most salient question: Forget Eliot Spitzer.
When he was attorney general, Eliot Spitzer had no trouble going after a "sophisticated prostitution ring." As governor, he apparently had no trouble patronizing one. But what about the oldest question about the oldest profession: Why, exactly, is prostitution illegal?
The case for making it against the law to buy sex begins with the premise that it's base and exploitative and demeaning to sex workers.
The risks of the trade were serious: "an annual average of a dozen incidents of violence and 300 instances of unprotected sex." There was also a "surprisingly high prevalence of police officers demanding sex from prostitutes in return for avoiding arrest." That looks like another argument against the bans on prostitution—presumably women wouldn't be caught in this particular trap if they weren't worried about going to jail in the first place.
Levitt and Venkatesh also offer up this statistic: Prostitutes get arrested about once per 450 tricks, and johns even less frequently.
(That might not sound like many, but then Sweden has a population of only 9 million.) For feminists like Mac Kinnon (with whom Waltman works), this sure looks like the solution: Go after the men!
Would legalizing prostitution increase trafficking? Countries in which prostitution is legal—Australia, Germany, the Netherlands—aren't cesspools.In 1999, Sweden made it legal to sell sex but illegal to buy it—only the johns and the traffickers can be prosecuted.This is the only approach to prostitution that's based on "sex equality," argues University of Michigan law professor Catharine Mac Kinnon.According to this Web site for the Women's Justice Center, Sweden's way of doing things is a big success."In the capital city of Stockholm the number of women in street prostitution has been reduced by two thirds, and the number of johns has been reduced by 80%." Trafficking is reportedly down to 200 to 400 girls and women a year, compared with 15,000 to 17,000 in nearby Finland.