January 2009
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How Much is Your Virginity Worth?: Lessons in Economics and Federalism

A twenty-two year old Nevada woman has placed her virginity up for grabs in an online auction, where the bidding has reportedly reached over $3.7 million. The transaction has caught the attention of some religious groups, who would like the federal government to intervene. However, because prostitution is legal in the state of Nevada, this particular sale of personal services will not be stopped, even though it may be advertised on the Internet – which can be accessed in states where prostitution is illegal.

One astute legal scholar had this to say about the matter:

It’s a First Amendment issue. You can advertise goods or services that are illegal where they’re advertised but legal where they’re performed. What’s she’s advertising is as legal as toast with the crust cut off where she is. (source)

* * *


(what follows is the individual opinion of the author)

Here again, we have the latest example of some whackjob in the Bible belt confusing legality with morality. In case you, the reader is confused, they are not always the same thing, and arguably never should be – at least at the federal level.

The idea here is that “morality” is another word for the standards of a particular community. Those standards are subjective, i.e., everyone has their own idea of what is moral and what isn’t, and no one is wrong for having a different idea than their next-door neighbor – with a couple of rare exceptions, like pedophiles. Generally, you can get a group of people together who agree on a particular moral standard, regarding a particular issue. However, the larger you make the group, the less likely it is that the group will agree, and there’s no really good reason why 51% of the people should be able to dictate their subjective idea of what is moral to the other 49%.

In the United States, our system of government was designed to reflect this reality. Local governments (e.g., state, county, city, homeowners association, etc.) are the ones in the best position to, if it is absolutely necessary, pass a law/regulation that is based on the morality of the community that those governments represent. Our federal government should not ever be taking action based on some perceived moral standard. The above-described news item illustrates this point quite well.

The community of people that live in the state of Nevada have decided for themselves that prostitution is okay. They have chosen to elect officials who recognize this particular moral standard, and those officials have enacted legislation that reflects that standard. The people of Nevada are free to change their minds and elect new officials who might change the law. This scenario accurately depicts the dream of our Founders.

Outrage over some “spillage” of immorality into other communities is a weak excuse for demanding some sweeping federal standard that is contrary to the laws of Nevada. The First Amendment was written specifically to prevent this type of thing. If you don’t like it, don’t look at it – you are free to make the decision for yourself. Have the courtesy to let the rest of us do the same – for ourselves.

This story was originally published on The Legal Satyricon.

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