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Subject:  Re: Our Lame Duck Date:  10/17/2003  1:55 PM
Author:  prometheuss Number:  8621 of 12906

This is what you said, CC:

What evidence do you have that STDs have been a huge issue for the past several thousand years? I don't think they became a huge issue (with some exceptions) until a) birth control (which didn't prevent STDs), b) the liberalization of attitudes regarding sexual customs, and c) a population sufficient to spread disease rapidly.

I appreciate you doing research that strongly supports my counter claim that STDs have always been a big social problem though much of your post is only tangential to our topic. Your entire case for the issue being so much bigger today rests on two ill-founded notions. The first is the idea that there are many more cases today. You have scant historical data to use as a basis for comparison. I doubt that you can really make this case without extensive research and effort. Even then you would need a breakthrough in methodology worthy of a Ph.D. dissertation to credibly count historical cases. What evidence you cite bolsters the case for the problem being nearly as old as man.

The second pillar in your case is the claim that there are more AIDS cases since 1960. That's laughable since there were no known AIDS cases before 1960. I cannot believe you are serious when you cite this. It is not unusual for a new disease to run rampant in a population. Even here, most AIDS cases in third world countries are diagnosed based on the symptoms modern without testing. This is also where most of the deaths that you cite occur. AIDS is a relatively minor health problem in most developed countries with most cases occurring in distinct subgroups (homosexuals, IV drug users and folks who have sex with those folks). I remain unconvinced that the spread of AIDS is different in any significant way from the historical spread of diseases.

Then you change the subject:

History? Yes, I've read plenty of history. History is replete with examples of how human beings have acted without restraint or self control when that clearly would have been in everyone's best interest. I wish it weren't so, but Darwin's principle of natural selection is still at work. Those who fail to have self control expose themselves to the risk of getting a fatal STD and will be eliminated from the human gene pool if/when that risk becomes a reality. It may only be a 10% or otherwise small risk, but if you're in the 10%, that's cold consolation.

I am at a loss to understand why you are lecturing me about self-control. The issue is STDs and I am sad to report that most fatal STDs do not eliminate folks from the gene pool contrary to your claim. Elimination occurs after the infected individual has ample opportunity to reproduce. Otherwise, you do not make a case that self-control is any more or less in evidence today vice yesteryear.

And then you close with another non sequitur:

It is generally required that those who advocate a change in the law or in cultural norms shoulder the burden of proof. Not vice versa.

The topic was whether prostitution is a major factor in the spread of STDs and not changing the law or cultural norms. However, cultural norms have tolerated prostitution for thousands of years and that is a fact that your own research supports.

I do want to point out an extremely important point, though. Anyone who wants to make laws against personal behavior or champion the continuation of those laws ought to make a compelling case for that law having a positive effect that justifies taking away some freedoms from other folks. Branding folks as criminals for behavior that does not directly affect your person or property should not be easy. You should provide compelling direct evidence that the behavior harms society. The weak and anecdotal evidence that I have seen to date for criminalizing all sorts of behavior fall far short of this standard.

Furthermore, even when the harm is great it is still incumbent upon those who wish to criminalize the behavior to demonstrate that the laws will not cause equal or greater harm. Alcohol is a clear example. No matter how great the harm caused by the legal consumption of alcohol, the prohibition was worse. Prohibition of drugs has spawned more and greater violence. I wonder if the drugs are as harmful?

Of course, you can always criminalize behavior on moral grounds and then look the other way and not enforce the laws. That seems to be the case with prostitution. Open the phone book in any major city and you see "Escorts" and "Massage" services advertising their girls and guys. Ditto if you search the Internet. Meanwhile, the police in most cities spend what time they spend on "Vice" chasing the streetwalkers who are on the lowest, most visible rung of the ladder from one corner to another.

Anyway, I can see that you are passionate about your subject while my interest is purely intellectual. It seems like your real case is a moral case and not a legal case. I doubt that you will convince me that criminalizing behavior will suddenly start working when it never has. I would just like make my own moral plea for everyone to raise the standard required to criminalize behavior that does not affect your person or property. If you do so, then we will have a more just and fair society.


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