I’ve been stewing, on and off, about this remark by Mistress Matisse on the Elliot Spitzer scandal:

I’m amused, in a rather cynical way, how much more outraged people who aren’t sex workers have been over the Eliot Spitzer issue than those of us who are. I’m hearing a lot about the hypocrisy!

Yeah, that’s true. But that’s the way the game is played, you know? I don’t expect any different from a politician and an officer of the court.

I won’t flatter myself that Matisse had my particular outrage in mind when she wrote that. But I realized that I do expect — or more precisely, demand, since only a fool would expect it — a better standard of behavior from people whose political power, when abused, lets them destroy lives.

Upon reflection, it’s Spitzer’s habit of prosecuting people for selling the same illicit services he himself was enjoying as a buyer that strikes me as evidence of a substantial and public evil, out of all proportion to whatever hypocrisy may be present when Joe Citizen takes a day off from his wife to let Matisse smack his balls with a stick.

Although I don’t often discuss or encourage the discussion of politics on this blog, it would be wrong to conclude that I’m not interested in political power, and its abuses. And it’s important to remember that prosecutors, in particular, are invested with enormous discretion to pick and choose which crimes they will prosecute.

Spitzer’s enjoyment of prostitution I do not hold against him. But to me it proves, conclusively, that he does not consider prostitution to be a social evil of any great importance. Which proves, in turn, that when he exercised his discretion to prosecute people in the flesh trades, he was doing so purely for political convenience and advantage. He put people in jail who did not, by his own moral compass, need to go there, and he did it to advance his career.

That is hypocrisy, sure. But it’s not the hypocrisy I’m condemning, not directly. What I condemn is locking people up for your personal convenience. “Sorry, chaps, nothing personal, it’s not that I disagree with anything you did, it’s just that I’m on the fast track to the Governor’s mansion, and it will be easier for me to get there if you suffer. So, suffer, peons!”

That, I consider evil. Joe Citizen cheating on his wife? He’s just being a schmuck. There’s a big difference, and it has something to do with the fact that Joe Citizen doesn’t have cops and prison guards with guns to do his dirty work for him.