The Pimp As Hero
by Walter Block
retrieved from The Libertarian Forum, VOLUME IV, NO. 11 JANUARY, 1973
The honest, hard working, long suffering pimp has been demeaned unjustly long enough. It is time, it is past time, that this ancient wrong be set right. In this day and age, pimps have been singled out for ridicule because of their pinky rings, their flashy custom-made Cadillacs, their fur coats. From time immemorial, pimps have everywhere been treated as parasites who prey upon prostitutes. Even revolutionary groups, who might have been thought to be able to empathize with other downtrodden minority groups, have viciousely turned on pimps.
If we are ever to make a fair assessment of this harassed minority group, we must endeavor to calmly and dispassionately take stock of what in actuality the pimp does. We can no longer depend upon old wives tales or "folk wisdom". But before we begin our analysis, we must clear up one point: the claim that pimps use coercion and the threat of violence (to gather and keep a stable of prostitutes on their payrolls). Of course some pimps do! This, however, in no way contradicts our view of the pimp as an honest and productive workingman. Is there any profession where not one practitioner is guilty of foul play? Of course not. There are bricklayers, plumbers, musicians, priests, doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs who have gone berserk and violated the rights of their fellow
creatures. Are these professions, then, qua professions to be castigated in their entirety? Of course not. And so should it be with the ancient and honorable profession of pimping: the actions of any one, or even of all pimps together, cannot legitimately be used to condemn the profession qua profession, unless the action is a necessary part of the profession. It is in this way that we know, for instance, that the profession of kidnapping small children for ransom is an evil profession, qua profession. The action is evil and is a necessary part of the profession.
_ In this case, if some of the practitioners perform good deeds like contributing a part of the "take" to charity, or are "good family men", or even if all of them do so, the profession is still an abomination. It is an abomination because by its very nature evil acts are committed in its name. In this article then, we shall try to evaluate the profession of pimping, ignoring the evil acts performed by some pimps which have nothing to do with their profession.
_ The function that the pimping profession serves is that of a broker. Just like brokers of real estate, insurance, stock market shares, investments or commodity futures, the pimp-broker serves the function of bringing two parties to a transaction together at less cost than it would take to bring them together without his good offices. We know that each party to a transaction served by a broker gains from the brokerage. Each party to the transaction is just as free to look for the other party without the aid of the broker, as he (or she) is to make use of the brokerage services for the brokering fee. From the fact that people voluntarily patronize brokers we know that, at least in their own minds, they are benefiting from the existence of the brokers.
_ And so in the case of the pimps. The customers gain from the use of pimps in that they are spared useless or wasteful waiting and searching time. Many customers would rather phone a pimp whom they trust for an assignation with a prostitute than spend time and effort searching one out. For one thing, the customers can gain the security of knowing that the prostitute comes recommended by the pimp. For another, all the customer need do is pick up the phone; he need not even venture outside to find a prostitute. And on rainy days, this can be of inestimable benefit. As for the prostitute, she (or he) also gains - or else, as we have seen, she would not work through a pimp. The prostitute gains the time that would otherwise be spent in searching for customers. And as every good businessman knows, time is money. The prostitute can also gain the security of knowing that there is some modicum of protection supplied by the pimp; in this profession, the customers that one deals with sometimes leave something to be desired. More important than protection against unruly customers, as important as that may be, is the problem of protection against policemen, whose profession, qua profession, it might be added, consists of harassing prostitutes who are engaged in voluntary trade with consenting adults. The pimp is of inestimable aid to the prostitute in this regard, in that assignations by phone are much less dangerous than streetwalking or bar hopping.
_ Then there is the problem of wear and tear on sometimes very expensive clothing. The prostitute working without benefit of a pimp must constantly dress and undress between customers. With a pimp setting up appointments one right after the other, there is little or no need for engaging in such costly and uneconomical activity. Thus, far from raising the costs of the service the pimp, like any other broker worth his salt, will actually lower the costs.
_ The prostitute is no more exploited by the pimp than is the manufacturer exploited by the salesman whom he hires to go out and drum up business for him. The prostitute is no more exploited by the pimp than is the actress who pays an agent a percentage of her earnings to go out and get jobs for her. In all these cases, the prostitute-employer earns more than the cost to her of the employee-pimp, otherwise the employer-employee relationship would not take place. And this is a precise way to look at the relationship that the prostitute bears with respect to the pimp: employer to employee.
_ We have defended the professional pimp on the grounds that he performs the important and even necessary function of brokering. Actually, however, the pimp's profession is more honorable than many of the other brokering professions because several of them, such as banking, insurance or the stock market in many respects rely on restrictive state laws to discourage their competition. Whatever may be said of pimps, it cannot be said that they have stooped that low.