The Government’s War On Craigslist (and Sex)

They’re at it again. Scarcely two months after warning to censor personal ads government bureaucrats say are actually solicitations for prostitution, the same morality police are threatening tougher action. What has Craigslist done so far in response?

The online advertising site has changed its “erotic services” category to “adult services,” and has further reputedly banned some of the more graphic photos. However, this won’t satisfy Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who earlier this year filed a lawsuit against the San Francisco-based company, citing it as being, in his estimation, America’s largest source of prostitution. Dart’s attorney, Dan Gallagher, says that some of the Craigslist ads offer escort services for as little as 15 minutes. “They go to great lengths to say this is just a site so that people can meet one another to fulfill their romantic aspirations,” Gallagher said. “I don’t think having an escort for 15 minutes is a fulfillment of romantic aspirations.”

Therein lies the problem. If Gallagher and Dart don’t find anything romantic or appealing about a short tryst with a consenting adult, that’s strictly their business, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with holding that opinion. However, they are obviously not content with keeping their feelings to themselves. They are attempting to use coercive violence – the power of the “law” – to prevent others from pursuing peaceful desires. What’s the difference between a simple date that ends in a sexual encounter, and one in which some money or other form of compensation changes hands? Whose business is that other than those directly involved? What incursion upon life, liberty, or property is being initiated by capitalistic acts taking place between two or more consenting adults?

Perhaps the questions go beyond any supposedly moral arguments (and I would argue that there is nothing moral to begin with in using violence to alter peaceful behavior), and have to do more with government’s inability to profit from such activities. In the War on Drugs, since anyone can grow marijuana, it is too difficult logistically to license, regulate, and tax growers – unlike with liquor and tobacco, which both require more complicated and expensive processing in order to produce products of marketable quality. So it is with the War on Sex – even in jurisdictions of legalized prostitution, such as Nevada, countless unlicensed sex workers ply their trade without paying taxes or following other governmental regulations. This is perhaps the greater part of the reason why, in addition to Dart and Gallagher’s lawsuit, no fewer than 40 state attorney generals are currently examining further and more aggressive actions against Craigslist.

One of the axioms among anarchists is that governments are little more than organized theft and violence. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in government’s war on human sexual activity. Not ever content in the scope of their power, government bureaucrats are even so brazen as to intervene in this most private and personal realm of human affairs. Such egregious invasions upon liberty, on top of all other ways in which governments involve themselves in our affairs, ought to prompt us not to look for ways in which such an institution might be best limited – as with constitutions that have done nothing of the sort in practice – but how to most expediently, and without compromise, affect its summary dissolution.

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory