Spitzer Caught in His Own Reign of Terror

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It’s not enough that New York Governor Eliot Spitzer jailed Martha Stewart, banned trans fats in New York, harassed business within an inch of its life, and grafted onto just about every other left-fascist cause provided it was politically correct and increased his personal power.

It turns out that it was he who waged war on prostitution by going after not the suppliers but the demanders, through use of wiretaps, sting operations, money-laundering investigations, and extended jail terms. He completely agreed with those who believe all prostitution constitutes exploitation and so it is up to the state to crack skulls in the name of protecting the women who enter into this sector of their own volition.

In a twist of hypocrisy reminiscent of the prohibition era, Spitzer himself has been caught in one of his own sting operations, a full audio and paper trail of his having sought and used an online “escort service” for his own pleasure and at great expense. Next it will be revealed that he eats trans fats and subscribes to MARTHA.

At the behest of hysterical activist groups, he has been prosecuting sex-trade rings for years. He called prostitution “modern-day slavery.” His law — which makes no distinction between human trafficking from far-off lands and traditional prostitution — prosecuting men who hire prostitutes came into effect in November 1, 2006. And yet he is said to have shelled out as much as $80,000 for prostitution services, and it was his attempting to drum up another $4,000 in cash that initially alerted the police to his activities.

An analogy might be for the nation’s drug czar to be revealed as a regular customer of the Medillin Cartel, except that this one is even more stirring of public interest since it involves a subject of even greater public curiosity than drug use.

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Tracy Quan writes of her shock that how the Governor could possibly engage in such dangerous activities. It is a term she applies to the online escort business in particular. What does she mean by dangerous? “Escort services are risky. When they are closed by the authorities, people’s lives are turned upside down. Many of us don’t recover…. Nobody wants to work with you if you’ve been in visible trouble, nor is just after a raid the best time in your life to start looking for a more conventional job. A conviction will sink your chances of getting hired.”

Now, that’s an unusual definition of dangerous: it is a risky career move for a woman because such services are likely to be investigated and busted up. And there is another sense in which they are dangerous: “I was terrified when the police raided the apartment that served as a booking office for the second agency. Those of us who were not arrested endured petty racist comments from the officers for about two hours.”

There we have it: a second sense in which this business is dangerous is due not to the business itself — which has every incentive to protect its workers and treat them well — but due rather to the police and their tactics. It is the state, in her view, that makes this a dangerous business for women.

There is yet a third sense in which this is dangerous business. The customer himself is taking a high risk of getting caught. The rich and powerful “have typically sought out sex workers who have been recommended by their friends and who don’t have Web sites. Escort agencies are supposed to be out of the question for old-school rakes who want to protect their marriages and careers.” So for this reason she says that for the governor to “shop for sex through an Internet escort service is mind-boggling.”

Now, the author herself knows something about this business. She is the author of “Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl.” Not for her at the fables of oppressed women locked in cages as their overlords crack the whip.

Meanwhile a more orthodox view is presented on the same page by Melissa Farley, who points out that many prostitutes have been a abused as children and work for companies in which the pimps take half the proceeds. It’s not clear what precisely would address her concerns. Should women abused as children be barred? Would that actually help them? Should there be salary caps for CEOs in the prostitution industry and their profits be distributed to the workers and peasants? It’s unclear: does she want the prostitutes to get more money or less?

Ultimately, there is no need to resolve the debate about whether prostitution is merely a seedy business or a whether people who appear to be acting on their own volition are really engaged in hurtful activity. St. Thomas Aquinas addressed the issue with the following: “those who are in authority, rightly tolerate certain evils, less certain goods be lost, or certain greater evils be incurred.” He cites Augustine: “If you do away with harlots, the world will be convulsed with lust.”

Thus does this Eliot Spitzer episode confirm it all. We have the greater evil at work in megalomaniac politicians robbing us of all liberty, and we have the convulsions that comes with the full-scale unleashing of us, such that the very person who campaigned most passionately for banning the practice turns out to be one of the reasons that the practice can never be abolished.

Jeffrey Tucker [send him mail] is editorial vice president of www.Mises.org. Comment on the Mises blog.

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