Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Here's another striking example of land use law being employed as a surrogate for other social values. In Amsterdam, the famous and infamous red light district has long been one of the city's most popular "attractions." In 2000, the Dutch government made prostitution fully legal, in the hope that it would transform it into just another occupation, with rules, regulations, and protections for workers. But the crime and abuse that surround prostitution have not been easy to cleanse. Accordingly, Amsterdam's mayor announced this week a new plan to transform much of the red right district into new, non-sex-related development. While closing many of the brothels will no doubt push some prostitution "underground," the government appears to hope that making prostitution more difficult through land use may help ameliorate some of the social problems that the trade generates. It reminds one of the failed experiment of Zurich, Switzerland, with its "needle park" in the 1980s, when the Swiss attempted to control heroin use by legalizing and regulating it in one particular area of land.
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