Rocco: Twerking for Sport and Profit

Miley Cyrus – don’t pretend you don’t know who she is – she gets alot of stick, bless her. She used to be a child, now she’s a woman. And she’s terribly keen that you know she is now a woman, even though, yes, she used to be a child.  Actually she used to be a child-actress, and now she’s a woman-singer, so things are even more complicated than they at first appear.

Whatever. It is said by some that Miss Cyrus is doing this grown-up-woman stuff all wrong. She’s traipsing round the place showing her body off, rubbing up against teddy bears, sitting on wrecking balls with no pants on, and she’s always sticking her tongue out. Plus, she’ll twerk you as soon as look at you. I’ll confess, I didn’t know what twerking was a month ago. I do now. Crikey. Anyway, the criticism is that Miss Cyrus is using her sexuality for gain. And women shouldn’t do that, apparently.

Now, this is all very interesting I’m sure you’ll agree. But this isn’t Heat magazine. This is Bogpaper. What’s any of this got to do with the exciting world of Austro-libertarianism?

Well, firstly Miley Cyrus should be considered something of a libertarian hero. Here is a motif from her song “We can’t stop”:

“It’s our party we can do what we want

It’s our party we can say what we want

It’s our party we can love who we want

We can kiss who we want

We can sing what we want”


What is this but a clear statement of libertarian belief grounded correctly upon legitimate private property rights? Freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom to engage in voluntary sexual activities – all justified on the basis of just ownership of property. This is made clear in the pre-chorus:

“This is our house

This is our rules”

That is, not, eg, freedom to say anything, any place, any time, but only on property you have a just claim to.

Even better, Miss Cyrus recognises the fundamental ground for all these freedoms – self-ownership:

“It’s my mouth I can say what I want to”

And Miss Cyrus is rightly dismissive of the charge that a philosophy based on private property rights is simply a cover for crass materialism:

“We run things, things don’t run we”.

Now we’ve established Miley as an advocate of libertarianism (and one with a huge audience, don’t forget), we can get on with  the important task of defending her against her non-libertarian critics, so that she can get on with spreading the message free from distractions.

Right, lets not beat around the bush. Women using their sex appeal for profit: the most extreme version of this is prostitution. Prostitution is, of course, famously so wrong that its illegal in plenty of countries, and in those where it isn’t illegal there are plenty who think it ought to be. But why should it be illegal to profit from the sale of sex? Technically ‘sex’ isn’t what’s being sold, what’s being sold is a persons body for a period of time.  And the person whose body is being sold, or rather rented out, is the  owner of that body. A body is an object just like any other. To own an object gives one the right to sell it to a willing buyer. In prostitution both parties to the transaction wish to trade: the client wants control over the prostitute’s body for a period of time more than a certain amount of money he (or she) currently owns; the prostitute wants that amount of money more than control over her (or his) body for that same period of time. Hence, prostitution, being just another example of trade, of a non-aggressive act, of a voluntary bargain, should be completely legal.

So, now we know that prostitution is a legitimate career choice from the economic point of view, are there any other arguments against it? Doesn’t it break up families, ruin marriages and so on? Lets say a chap visits a prostitute and his wife finds out. She leaves him, she takes the kids who grow up without a father, the chap turns to drink, the wife shacks up with some bloke who beats her, etc. Isn’t it acceptable to ban prostitution in order to prevent such things occurring, or at least limit the chances of such things occurring, given that the ability to “buy sex” lead to this Ken Loach-esque train of events?

The answer is no. Firstly, if a married chap will sleep with a prostitute, he’ll sleep with a woman from work, or any other place. And even if no married man could keep his hands off prostitutes, why should the unmarried be denied the opportunity to trade with them? Secondly, none of this was a neccessary result of the initial transaction. The wife might never have found out; she might have forgiven him; they could have agreed to share custody; he could have reacted differently to divorce; the wife didn’t have to end up with a thug. Thirdly and most importantly, the initial transaction was voluntary and peaceful. No one was aggressed against, no one was forced into anything against their will. Both parties benefited from the trade, at least ex ante, and that is enough.

To illustrate this last point, suppose a chap buys a hammer for a DIY project. He values it more than the money he exchanges it for; the seller values the money he receives in exchange more than keeping the hammer. This must be the case, otherwise the exchange wouldn’t happen, therefore both parties benefit from this act of peaceful, voluntary trade at the time it takes place. [This is a fundamental point of Austrian economics, by the way. People do not exchange goods of equal subjective value. Failure to grasp this leads to the labour theory of value.] The question is, should the State prevent this? No? But what if it were argued that, after completing his DIY project, the chap might murder a prostitute with the hammer?  His wife might find out, leave him and take the kids who then grow up without a father, and the chap might turn to drink to cope with the stress of being a murderer, and the wife might end up shacking up with a bloke who beats her. To prevent such a horrible situation, mustn’t the State step in and outlaw the sale of hammers? Or would that be a bit stupid?

What about biscuits? A chap might, with his own money, buy some biscuits from a shopkeeper, who was the legitimate owner of those snacks. Each, prior to the trade, valued the other’s item more than his own, they each agreed to the trade, no one was forced into anything, each went away satisfied. But what if, driving home, the chap reaches down to get a biscuit, taking his eyes of the road as he does so, as a result crashing into a bus shelter full of kids, killing them all horribly? He is sent to prison, his children are left without a father, his wife shacks up with a bloke who beats her. Upon release, unable to live with the misery and shame he hangs himself.  None of this would have happened were it not for that initial transaction. Wouldn’t it be better, so as to prevent this sort of thing from happening, that the State outlaw the sale of biscuits? Or would that be a bit stupid?

(By the way, whores, hammers and hobnobs – who says economics is the dismal science?)

Prostitution is a peaceful trade like any other, no more immoral than a hammer, no more dangerous than a biscuit. And if the most extreme version of women using their sex appeal for gain is legitimate, its safe to assume that the more moderate versions – like prancing about in your underwear – are fine too.

So if you are reading this Miley, take heart. Stick to your liberal beliefs and keep promoting them in your songs. I’m sure I speak for everyone here at Bogpaper in wishing you the best of luck.

2 comments on “Rocco: Twerking for Sport and Profit

  1. Anthem
    October 14, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    Some pictures would have improved this article no end.

    No, not of Miley’s backside. I’ve seen pictures of that and it put me right off the chicken breast fillets I was cooking.

    • Rocco
      October 14, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

      Oh, that’s harsh, dude!

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