Connecticut Law Review Volume 46 - Issue 2

Strange Traffic: Sex, Slavery, and the Freedom Principle

This Article uses the recent prosecution of a sex trafficking case in rural Missouri to argue three points. First, the federal law of trafficking is currently being used in unanticipated ways, including the apprehension of individuals who pay for sex. Second, trafficking invites creative use precisely because it provides prosecutors with a more salient justification for punishment than either legal moralism or harm; a rhetorical plea to anti-slavery that enjoys a longstanding but under-theorized role in criminal law rhetoric. Third, antislavery’s
recurrence in criminal law rhetoric illustrates a larger doctrinal point, namely that mid-century reformers like H. L. A. Hart truncated John Stuart Mill to reduce the criminal sanction, ignoring Mill’s subordination of harm to a larger, more intrusive “principle of freedom.”

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