- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 18, 2001

Dutch prostitutes are in trouble. It isn't that the shrinking economy has short-ended business. Nor is it that the police have attempted to lock a chastity belt around their business. After all, the red-light solicitations have long received official sanction in the Netherlands, and brothels received the legal green light nine months ago.

But passage of that measure was supposed to result in ecstatic liberation. Streetwalkers were supposed to be hooked into health benefits, and a pension plan was promised. Legalization was also supposed to strip the shadows away from seedy transactions and the exploitation of minors that often accompanies prostitution. Femke Halsema, a passionate supporter of the bill in the Dutch parliament exclaimed, "For me, it was a question of emancipation and liberation of the women. But now it is working the other way."

Indeed, the world's oldest profession didn't stand a chance against the bureaucrats' oldest tradition. Government solicitors began blanketing brothels in paperwork almost before they were allowed to legally bunk down. Protested one pimp to the New York Times: "The bureaucrats are busy making rules and they know nothing about the business." Forms now come in from practically every agency in creation, including the labor department, the department of health and, of course, the department of revenue.

In fact, the swinging business has never been worse, thanks to the taxes that the madams and their solicitous employees are now expected to send in, not to mention the new rules and renovation costs that they are now being ravished with. The Times noted that "Prostitutes are complaining that the law that was supposed to help them has only handed them a tax bill."

Such annoyances have actually shoved some of those sales-minded strumpets under the covers. According to reports, some prostitutes have left the business, but many others have continued to ply their trade anonymously, away from both the takings of the taxman and the supervision (and protection) of the police.

Unbending supporters of the measure claim that the real problem is not the pervasiveness of invasive bureaucrats, but rather that campaigns of community acceptance and programs for prostitute education have been shortchanged. This is hardly likely to be the problem among the liberal-minded Dutch.

It's more likely that the people most worried about being shortchanged are neither those doing the work nor those who are paying for it. This time, it is the bureaucrats who are playing the pimps.

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