Like many idyllic towns in Middle America, Rockford is rife with political corruption, rotten with vice and immorality, and beset by criminal gangs who control an ever-growing drug industry and, in a good year, put Rockford ahead of Chicago in the number of murders per capita.  Residents with long memories also remember articles in Life and the daily Rockford Register Star (1984) that celebrated Rockford as a leading center of Mafia activity in the United States.  They even named names.

As Jeff Havens of the weekly Rock River Times has shown, the mob never went away, and the deliberate negligence of the Rockford city fathers may be costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in payment for waste disposal.  The usual story of no-bid contracts for companies that contribute to campaign war chests is made even richer by the fact that one of the companies is descended from a firm once owned by an identified mob boss.

So, in such a town, it was a relief to see on the evening news that someone is finally cracking down on the mounting crime wave.  A joint investigation of federal, state, and local authorities has succeeded, after two years of tough law-enforcement work, in shutting down seven massage parlors probably involved in prostitution.  The ghosts of Wyatt Earp and J. Edgar Hoover are probably writhing in envy.

Before getting on to my main point, which is the hypocrisy of an amoral state cracking down on vice, there is another irony worth mentioning.  All of the unfortunate women being charged are illegal Korean or Chinese immigrants, who may be deported.  In two years, any one of the crusading cops could have shut this operation down simply by enforcing U.S. immigration laws, but that would have been too easy.  The city could have zoned them out of business, but that would have meant taking a moral stand on something, and, in a county where the Republicans are crying out for a casino to counter the loss of industrial jobs, vice is not a problem so much as a source of tax revenue.  In fact, two important “adult” parlors were grandfathered in, to exempt them from zoning restrictions, while a loophole allowed others to continue operating so long as a qualified masseuse was on staff.

I do not much blame the girls.  Until you have been really poor, you will not understand the lengths to which human beings can be driven by poverty.  As illegal aliens who were actually living in the massage parlors, they seem more like sex slaves than call girls.  I reserve my censure for the men who make their living off these women and the big, bold chiefs and federal agents who give interviews, gloating over their great triumph over crime.

A good cop could have walked into any of these parlors and shut them down either by asking for ID’s or by soliciting sex.  Rockford is notorious for sex.  The police allowed an antiques strip to die because they refused to shut down the prostitutes and dope dealers who drove away business, and, between the massage parlors and the lingerie shops with “private modeling available,” Rockford is a magnet for the pathetic losers who have to buy sex in a society where it is being given away on government grants.  I spent 30 seconds on the internet and found a website with the following statement that tells you what you need to know about local law enforcement’s war on vice:

All in all, the Rockford/Belvidere area seems to have a very good attitude with respect to these businesses.  I have heard of no crackdowns, or problems relating to any of them . . . When I travel to other cities, I am generally disappointed in what they have to offer, compared to the businesses in Rockford/Belvidere.

Why is prostitution a crime?  Selling sexual favors was a legal activity in pre-Christian Europe.  Why is it illegal in post-Christian America?  Even Christian societies have often chosen to regulate rather than to criminalize prostitution, and post-Christian Nevada has taken that sensible route.

Many Christian (especially Protestant) countries did enforce laws against sexual misconduct, but adultery and fornication were taken far more seriously than prostitution.  Adultery, to take the more serious example, undermines marriage, destroys a family, and may, if a wife has been unfaithful, drive a wedge between a father and the children he fears he has not sired.  Fornication between two unmarried adults may nonetheless corrupt the character of people who will someday be a father and a mother, and, in the case of a college professor who sleeps with an 18-year-old student, disparity in age or rank should be grounds for regarding the professor as a rapist.

Professors who prey upon girls are not sent to jail, however; they do not even lose their jobs.  And it has been a long time since the feds teamed up with state and local police to crack down on open marriages or “desperate housewives.”  Americans as a whole, if we can judge from their favorite movies and TV shows, think adultery is cute or, at the worst, a source of amusing embarrassment if the cheaters are caught.  It is the cuckold we despise, not the adulteress.

Sex outside of marriage is celebrated as a positive good.  Then how does paying for nonmarital sex make it criminal?  I’d like someone to give me some good examples of activities that are legal only so long as no one is paid for doing them.  Of course, I can drink and even make wine at home and only violate the law if I start selling it to the neighbors, but that is because the sale of alcoholic beverages is taxed and regulated.  Following that model, Winnebago County might impose health and safety inspections on brothels, draw up sets of zoning requirements and age limits for prostitutes and their clients, charge licensing fees and business taxes, and demand that they collect a sales tax or even a special luxury tax from the customers.  But, if immoral sex is not illegal per se, then it cannot be illegal per se to sell it.

So I repeat my question: Why is prostitution a crime, and even if it is, why should the police not treat the sale of illegal sex with the same benign neglect with which they approach sodomy or, for that matter, illegal immigration?  Do they simply enjoy throwing their ample weight around to intimidate women—not a possibility to be discounted—or is this another case of what Samuel T. Francis has termed anarcho-tyranny?

Under our legal regime of anarcho-tyranny, the same legal system that refuses to do anything about violent gangs of illegal immigrants will throw the book at speeders, smokers, and scofflaws who forget to buckle up or who consume two beers on their way home.  “Drive Hammered, Get Nailed” is the offensive and threatening billboard I see every day on the way to work.  Drunk drivers are a menace, but they are by no means as dangerous to our liberty and well-being as an out-of-control government that demonizes honest citizens who make mistakes and boasts of its ability to inflict punishment.  Tune in to Cops some time, as I have done in motel rooms, and you will get a glimpse of strutting bullies who humiliate the poor for the pettiest infractions.

Politicians and the bureaucrats they employ, not prostitutes, are our main problem.  Perhaps the “whore with a heart of gold” is a myth, but it would be easier to find a heart of gold in the Tokyo Massage Parlor than among the summons-serving, gun-toting prostitutes who make decent Americans fear for their lives.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I think most American cops are simply doing a tough job according to rules they did not make.  I have never been to a brothel, picked up a prostitute, or visited a massage parlor even for a massage, though, at the age of 20, I did buy drinks for a b-girl I felt sorry for: She was saving money to fix the teeth her abusive boyfriend had rearranged.