Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

If it’s not the sex, it’s the money, we should change laws to reflect the modern society

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Originally published on on Thu, 03/13/2008 – 10:31am

“It’s not the sex, it’s the money.”

How many times have you heard that phrase this past week? And better yet, did you know before this week that the Mann Act was still on the books?

As any lawyer can tell you, state and federal law books are filled with amazingly obscure laws that somehow still exist on the books. And we should do something about it.

We have made fun of the Bush tax cuts that weren’t permanent. But maybe we can adapt that philosophy to some laws. Maybe we can find a way to have laws such as the Mann Act taken off the books.

This isn’t to excuse Eliot Spitzer’s behavior or David Vitter’s or any other politician ever caught with a hooker. But we chastise a society where the Mann Act still exists, yet we don’t do anything about it.

The mania that surrounded the perception of “white slavery” brought on the Mann Act. The law was used against Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight boxing champ for actually having white girlfriends. And we know from stories from this past week that Charlie Chaplin, Chuck Berry, Frank Lloyd Wright, and even Charles Manson.

And laws that involve any action across state lines always make me nervous. I grew up near a state line, and the vagueness of the Mann Act makes you wonder what qualified under that law for many, many years.

“Whoever knowingly transports any individual in interstate or foreign commerce, or in any Territory or Possession of the United States, with intent that such individual engage in prostitution, or in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both”

It’s not just prostitution — depending on the jurisdiction, it could have meant homosexual acts or even more recently, use of sex toys in the South. The use of sex toys was illegal in Texas until February 2008, so even in the privacy of the home, you could be charged under the Mann Act. After all, it says, “or in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense.”

Something along the lines of a Constitutional Convention could work. We also could have laws like patents with a limit of years. It’s highly doubtful we would not pass a renewal of murder being illegal. But we might let the Mann Act slide. And we might even let prostitution slide as well.

Before you say how radical it would be to make prostitution legal, there is a major country close by where prostitution has always been legal: Canada. That’s right, prostitution is legal in Canada, but soliciting isn’t.

And if you were to argue that prostitution should remain illegal, you would have to prove why that is still viable. The emphasis would change from getting rid of laws to justify keeping them. Very few people can honestly stand up and say the Mann Act is a good thing.

We pride ourselves on a society of laws. But laws that don’t have relevance diminish the power of the law. Fewer laws that are more relevant to our society strengthen the law and strengthen society.


Written by democracysoup

March 13, 2008 at 10:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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