The Business of Government Is Hysteria

Sessions hearing brings out the worst in senatorial statism, Matt Welch argues in the L.A. Times


In never ends. ||| Moral Feature Film Co.
Moral Feature Film Co.

Did watching today's confirmation hearings for Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions make you wanna go full anarchist? There's a good reason why: Senate Judiciary Committee members, even while putatively cross-examining the next top law enforcement official in the land, kept on asking him to ratify their hysterical versions of reality in order to further aggrandize government power. Even while occasionally criticizing Sessions for not agreeing to roll back previous hysteria-induced federal overreaches.

As I argue in the L.A. Times:

"I would like to begin," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said to Sessions, "with the second largest criminal industry in this country, which is now — believe it or not, by revenues produced — human sex trafficking." […]

In order for "human sex trafficking" to be the second largest criminal industry in the United States, it would at minimum need to supplant illegal narcotics (roughly $100 billion a year, according to a 2014 Rand Corp. estimate), or Medicare fraud (in the ballpark of $60 billion, according to the Government Accountability Office in 2015). So distant is reality from those numbers that even the commonly cited figure of $9.8 billion a year for all trafficking — and keep in mind that human smuggling dwarfs sex trafficking — was given "four Pinocchios" by Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler.

Feinstein wasn't done. "Trafficking victims," she warned, average "12 to 14" in age. ("Four Pinocchios," judged Kessler.)

These fake numbers have consequences. Congress has leaned on such bogus statistics by periodically ratcheting up the penalties of the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act — the 2015 reauthorization, for example, made websites liable for sex trafficking if a minor is found to have advertised services there.

"In 2014 alone, 31 states passed new laws concerning human trafficking," Elizabeth Nolan Brown wrote in Reason magazine 15 months ago. "Since the start of 2015, at least 22 states have done so."

And who is being prosecuted? Besides publishers such as, which shut down its "Adult" section this week after relentless pressure (including concurrent hearings on Capitol Hill on Monday), the criminals apprehended are disproportionately adult females who work in the sex industry by choice.

Read the whole thing, including nods to porn, online poker, and Gitmo, here.