So here's a confession. My trip with a Reed economics class to Union Jacks this past weekend was actually my first time in a Portland strip club. And because it was my first time, I was taken aback by a couple things: So much money! So casually exchanged! It's strange that the likely millions of dollars passing through Portland's strip clubs are not counted as part of the "real" economy by either the city or traditional economists. Though Portland has 49 strip clubs within its boundaries (according to industry mag Exotic), the city does not factor their business into Portland's economy at all. Despite having business licenses and W-2 forms, they're part of the informal sector like Craigslist.
What if Portland included strip clubs in its general economic analysis of the city? I think it's strange that such a prevalent and lucrative part of our city's industry is a big black hole when it comes to actually evaluating its impact. How many Portlanders have jobs in strip clubs? How much money do they bring into the city? Do they cost the city anything in terms of social services or heightened police action? These are worthwhile questions that no one is answering, I think in a large part because it's hard to separate out the economic discussion around strip clubs from a social and moral one.
I don't know how the city would do this, because other states' attempts to keep track of strip clubs financially have been driven by morals, not economic curiosity. In Texas, a $5-per-customer strip club tax goes into a fund for rape victims. Las Vegas pursued a strip club tax with the justification that they were a burden on police.
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