Floating Through New York’s Underground Economy on Feed 44

C4SS Feed 44 presents James C. Wilson‘s “Floating Through New York’s Underground Economy,” — a review of Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost and Found in New York’s Underground Economy, by Sudhir Venkatesh. It is read by Athena Roberts and edited by Tony Dreher.

Readers with libertarian, voluntarist or anti-prohibitionist leanings will be simultaneously pleased and frustrated with this work. Venkatesh observes that the illegal nature of the activities he describes makes them more risky, more dangerous, and increases the likelihood that those involved will be subjected to violence. Without directly stating it, he illustrates the ways in which prohibition makes the sex and drug trades far uglier and crueler than they would otherwise be. Much of this will garner sympathy from the left-wing market anarchist. The disappointment comes in Venkatesh’s refusal to go from descriptive to prescriptive. While he identifies real problems and correctly notes the role that prohibitions play, he never states outright that such prohibitions should be abolished. While doing so may be a statement of the obvious, failing to do so is a missed opportunity to make this a more meaningful read. The possibility merits more attention than Venkatesh chooses to give it.

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