In the United States especially, politics and economics don’t mix well. Politicians have all sorts of reasons to pass all sorts of laws that, as well-meaning as they may be, fail to account for the way real people respond to real-world incentives.
When prostitution was criminalized in the United States, most of the policing energy was directed at the prostitutes rather than their customers. This is pretty typical. As with other illicit markets—think about drug dealing or black-market guns—most governments prefer to punish the people who are supplying the goods and services rather than the people who are consuming them.
But when you lock up a supplier, a scarcity is created that inevitably drives the price higher, and that entices more suppliers to enter the market. The U.S. “war on drugs” has been relatively ineffective precisely because it focuses on sellers and not buyers. While drug buyers obviously outnumber drug sellers, more than 90 percent of all prison time for drug convictions is served by dealers.
Why doesn’t the public support punishing users? It may seem unfair to punish the little guy, the user, when he can’t help himself from partaking in vice. The suppliers, meanwhile, are much easier to demonize.
But if a government really wanted to crack down on illicit goods and services, it would go after the people who demand them. If, for instance, men convicted of hiring a prostitute were sentenced to castration, the market would contract in a hurry.
Первый абзац хорош в принципе, а остальные снова направляют мысли к главному пугалу сегодняшних дней — child pornography — когда the government, видимо, really wanted to crack down on it, and insisted on punishing the user as well as the supplier. Which never ceases to amaze me (since I am too used to thinking about punishment in those classical terms, when the user who indulges in a vice is not punished too severely for it whereas the provider who supplies the vice is).