They have arrested a man for killing, in the past 2 weeks, five prostitutes in Ipswich, the county town of Suffolk, and a miserable place - at least that's what it seemed like the only time I drove through it. Previously, its only claim to fame was its football team, which won the First Division some 40 years ago when managed by Sir Alf Ramsay, later to manage England in its only World Cup Victory. Another Ipswich manager, Sir Bobby Robson, also went on to manage England, though his best effort was to reach the semi-finals of Italia 90. A former Ipswich player, Paul Mariner, was once England's center forward.
All five prostitutes were heroin addicts, on the streets to feed their habits even though they new that someone was killing the working girls. The murders have led to calls for the legalization of both prostitution and of heroin. A similar libertarian demand might as well call for the legalization of murder.
Prostitution is not one business. At the lower end of the market, most of the girls working the streets are drug addicts, though a few are teenage runaways. Social security payments are enough to live on, but they are not available to the very young, who ought to be back with their parents, nor enough to support a drug habit.
Some street girls and some operating from brothels are controlled by a pimp, who may control them by supplying heroin or cocaine. Increasingly there are illegal immigrants who have been seduced by offers of a job, which turns out to be in prostitution, yet the girls dare not go to the police for fear of deportation.
At the top end of the market, the girls dress well, behave immaculately in public, and make a large amount of money. Their choice of prostitution as a livelihood is not out of necessity, but out of greed. For them it is a way of maximizing their income. Some even like the lifestyle.
In between are any number of variations on the theme.
The argument for legalizing prostitution is to remove the criminality. Just as prohibition brought the mafia into the sale of alcohol, so, the argument goes, the sale of sex is only infiltrated by criminals because it is illegal. The same argument is used in favor of legalizing hard drugs. It has been suggested that heroin be provided for free on the NHS.
The NHS is one of the reasons why neither prostitution nor hard drugs are likely to be legalized in the UK. The argument that I can do whatever I like to my body as long as it harms no-one else doesn't work if somebody else has to pick up the tab for the damage done. But even in America the cost of health care for the underclass on drugs and infected with sexually transmitted diseases is picked up by the taxpayer. The only arguments that wash with the taxpayer are economic ones, not moral ones. So if it could be shown that decriminalizing drugs would lead to fewer robberies and burglaries, less street violence and fewer infections from shared needles, then it might be a runner. Experience tells us, though, that the criminals will find something else to make their money from.
Prostitution is not illegal in the UK. The offences are soliciting, kerb-crawling, living off immoral earnings and running a brothel. Private arrangements between consenting adults are regarded as nobody's businee but their own.
A story, apochryphal I'm sure, is told of Henry Kissinger dancing, as was his wont, with a tall statuesque blonde, and whispering in her ear, "Will you sleep with me for $100,000?"
After receiving an answer in the affirmative and after a few more spin turns he asked again, "Will you sleep with me for $10?"
Affronted, she slapped his face, "What do you take me for, a common prostitute?"
"Madam," he replied, "we have already established that. Now we are negotiating as to price."
It is probably impossible to separate sex and money; however pure the majority someone will always find a way of connecting them.