Would legalizing prostitution help the US economy?

A Nevada brothel owner says America is missing out on billions of dollars in taxable revenue.

By Bruce Kennedy Dec 13, 2012 11:54AM

Image: Couple holding hands (Corbis/Corbis)The fiscal cliff dilemma is prompting some novel ideas on how to reduce the federal deficit -- including the highly questionable suggestion of turning Uncle Sam into a pimp.


Enter Dennis Hof, owner of Nevada's Moonlight Bunny Ranch brothel. Hof has proselytized for years about decriminalizing prostitution outside his state, and argues that a legal and taxed sex trade could do economic wonders.


"The federal government receives $6 billion a year now, off of liquor," he said in an interview with the Huffington Post. "The prostitution industry in America is about an $18 billion business, and none of that money goes into the federal coffers or goes to pay taxes."


With his plan, Hof says, the government would gain about $6 billion in federal income tax "from the girls" -- plus nearly $2 billion more in licensing fees.


According to the Christian Post, the international sex industry is a $30 billion a year business -- with hundreds of thousands of women, men and children coerced into a brutal and degrading life as prostitutes. 


Hof says decriminalizing prostitution takes money out of the hands of criminals, eliminates sex trafficking and combats the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. "You can't stop it," Hof told the Huffington Post. "Prohibition doesn't work and legalization can solve a lot of our problems."


But even if you put aside the obvious moral issues surrounding a decriminalized prostitution industry, there are some doubts whether it would actually reduce crime.


Some advocates look at countries like the Netherlands -- where prostitution is legal. It's even an active and publicized part of the tourist trade in Amsterdam, bringing in about $100 million a year.  But Amsterdam officials say legalization did not end crime, human trafficking, money laundering or drug abuse in the city's Red Light District.


"While legalization was supposed to turn prostitutes into self-employed taxpayers who did not need pimps for protection," Reuters reported in 2007, "the city said the industry is still dominated by criminals attracted by the 370 Euros ($484 U.S.) each woman can earn a day."


And a new academic report, looking at data from 116 countries, found a higher instance of human trafficking in countries where prostitution is legal.


"Our research suggests that in countries where prostitution is legalized, there is such a significant expansion of the prostitution market that the end result is larger reported inflows of human trafficking," said Eric Neumayer, Professor of Environment and Development at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and co-author of the report.


"While legalizing prostitution can have positive effects on the working conditions of those legally employed in the industry, it also appears to boost the market for this fast-growing global criminal industry."


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Tags: Economy
336Comments
Dec 13, 2012 5:17PM
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With the way the government screws us, daily, they should pay us..... If they want to call it prositution, so be it.....
Dec 13, 2012 5:15PM
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Why not put a meter on everybody and collect a user fee. I am really surprised they haven't done it sooner.
Dec 13, 2012 5:14PM
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why not...also think we should start a debt lottery...just think of the money the government would take in....tax free winnings..maybe lesser prizes could be not taxes for a year...a percentage off your taxes, etc.....let's get creative here people...since the rich don't want to pay their share of taxes...i'm sure we could get quite a bit from them on the prostitution tax!!
Dec 13, 2012 5:14PM
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Well, our elected officials have been whoring themselves out since the time of our founding fathers. At least they have the experience to make it as profitable as possible.
Dec 13, 2012 5:13PM
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Id have to ask my wife for more allowance & oysters !

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Simple "supply and demand", there is shortage of willing vaginas and far too many willing to pay penises, good sales projections!
Dec 13, 2012 5:12PM
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......Sure, lets just go ahead and add that with all the dope smoking, fudge packing, gay day parading liberals agenda and go for it while we are on hitlers watch.
Dec 13, 2012 5:10PM
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Elect the prostitutes jail the politicians!! At least the hookers are honest about what they are there for!!
Dec 13, 2012 5:09PM
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Will they take EBT cards and food stamps? 
Dec 13, 2012 5:08PM
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People are voting to legalize things that really should even be considered.  it's just that nobody has any boundaries anymore, anything goes.  Pretty soon the voters will be as corrupt as the politicians.  Then we won't have to bother pretending that we have a democracy, we will just be able to admit our country is one big joke where only evil criminals runs for office so they can get richer than they already are.  A poor honest man cannot be president because he does not have billions of dollars for negative television ads nor is he willing to sell his soul to billionaires who make him sign pledges in return for their money.  Who is this a democracy?  How is what we have the will of the people?  When are the voters getting anything the want?  All we see is the rich people getting what they want in return for their money.  The taxpayers aren't getting anything.  Plain truth.
Dec 13, 2012 5:07PM
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Let's all grow up some more!!!  Decriminalize pot and prostitution.  They're both losing wars.  They waste billions of dollars of tax money which could be used to improve our infrastructure and create jobs.  Of course, those whose income is based on prohibition will disagree.  
Dec 13, 2012 5:06PM
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Why not make prostitution legal and tax it heavily as an entertainment?  Politics is legal and these days it doesn't seem to differ too dang much from prostitution.  In fact, I would say that most, if not all of our politicians have, are or will soon sell out their values and their constituencies for political clout, cash, self importance or a combination of the three.  Just look at Hillary Clinton, she sold out all of her decent values to cling to the coattail of a rapist and major philanderer just to hitch a ride as far as his contacts and mojo could carry her in order to improve her own political future...if that isn't prostitution the I don't reckon anything is.  And Boehner talking any type of tax hikes thinks he is doing himself a favor politically but I, like millions of others, consider that a sellout and actually borders on being a traitor to our Constitution and our republic.  Prices will be paid and not all of those costs will necessarily be political.  
Dec 13, 2012 5:05PM
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This needs to be done. It will give men a little more equal footing in the sexual arena and diminish the tyranny of women.  Along with that, weed needs to be legalized and taxed.  This war on drugs is counterproductive. 

Dec 13, 2012 5:04PM
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We have legalized prostitution . . .  it's called Congress. 
Dec 13, 2012 5:02PM
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 Here's a more creative way to avoid economic disaster. Stop printing fu*&ing money out of thin air, and bailing out bankster thieves and foreign governments. Stop getting involved in wars we have no business being in. Stop destroying countries and then rebuilding them at the taxpayers expense. Stop building the huge war machine, the cold war was over a long time ago. Start manufacturing here in the U.S. again. There is a reason we are in this mess, people are just to stupid or indifferent about it and too busy watching tv.
Dec 13, 2012 5:01PM
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It's cheaper to hire a hooker and less B/S!

Dec 13, 2012 5:01PM
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It would be ashame for the United States to stoop that low. This country has gone a way from the very principles it was founded on. However there are those who insist that we go back and relive the times of Babel. Is this what these United States want? I should say not in the least.

I can tell you how to get out of debt. Stop spending money that has no meaning. Did it help that all Americans paid all the big banks out of debt? Foot no! However, President Obama is still acting like a child. "I am going to have my way or I am going to tell on you!" Just tax the rich to death. Those making over $1,000,000 a year. Make their investment taxes about 35% +14%. That equals 49%. Quit taxing small business owners to death. Leave others tax levies in place. And what the Senate and Congress needs to do is keep a tally on the President and Vice President on the mistakes they make. We the people deserve better. This was a clear message by all the people who protest to leave the United States. Did all you notice that all the states that have Federal Mints in them were on the leave list? Wake up and smell the coffe, Mr. President. There wer many Democratic State wanting to leave too. Wht started with a joke over the gun control ends with many petitions of states having more than enough registered signed voters wanting to leave.

Dec 13, 2012 4:59PM
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I think we should make Nancy Pelosi the first prostitute on the payroll. 

Dec 13, 2012 4:58PM
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Legalize Prostitution and Pot, then tax then crap out of it to help pay for Healthcare.   Kind of a vicious circle though.   The former activities will help cause and pay for the latter activity.
Dec 13, 2012 4:58PM
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 Legalizing it doesn't work. It doesn't work in Nevada where hundreds of prostitutes are arrested each year for not following the prostitution law. Prostitution is only legal in the brothels. Many refuse to work there. It caught outside this requirement, they go to jail. People try to find ways to avoid paying taxes and following regulations.
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