Swedish prostitution policy is no panacea

Mar 18, 2015
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no panacea

‘Swedish prostitution policy is no panacea’: A superb post by Dan Gardner at Policy Options

Like almost everyone who lauds Swedish prostitution policy, Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente ignores an obvious and critical factor in judging the effects of that policy: geographic displacement.

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“Across the bridge from southern Sweden is Denmark,” Wente writes. Denmark took a more liberal approach than Sweden and in sharp contrast to its neighbour it is now awash in prostitution. Ergo, the Swedish policy of criminalizing customers works. Legalization doesn’t.

I question whether the contrast is really so stark as Ms. Wente makes it out to be. I know from long experience researching this issue that the data cited in prostitution debates — particularly that delivered by ideologically driven prohibitionists — ranges from the sketchy to the fabricated. But for present purposes I’ll simply assume the reality is exactly as Ms. Wente portrays it. And as portrayed, it sounds convincing. Sweden took one path, it’s neighbour another: It’s a natural experiment and the results are clear.

But remember that bridge Ms. Wente mentioned? It connects the Swedish city of Malmo with the Danish capital of Copenhagen. Of course there are no border controls. To travel from Malmo to Copenhagen you simply hop on a little train that zips over the cold Baltic waters. It takes 35 minutes city to city and costs 9 Euros.

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