Trade-offs

If Governor Spitzer wanted to have sex with a younger woman then instead of hiring a prostitute he could have gotten a divorce and remarried, just like so many other rich and powerful men.  Or he could have had an affair.  Of these options hiring a prostitute is the least threatening to marriage but it’s the only option which is illegal.  In contrast, getting a divorce and remarrying a younger woman is so common it doesn’t even stop a man from running for President.

Trade-offs are everywhere, whether we choose to acknowledge them or not.

In closely related news, Eric Zitzewitz says that although Spitzer may have hired a prostitute he was not himself for sale.  Justin Wolfers reflects and like me thinks our moral compass is off kilter.

Comments

Speaking of trade-offs, what I find so striking is the contrast between the second picture, in which she is actually attractive, and the third picture, which is more likely to earn her money: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/13/nyregion/12cnd-kristen.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Zitzewitz's analysis is highly incomplete in calculating the costs and benefits of Spitzer's actions.

- Key missed benefit: increase in systemic integrity due to the examples he made of "market timers" and the firm's that harbored/encouraged them.

- Key missed cost: legal and human resource costs associated with selective prosecution and criminalization of business activities better regulated by civil enforcement.

To my mind the latter costs are more significant than the former benefits, but that's my bias about the benefits of predictability (or lack of arbitrariness) in the exercise of state power.

If the rules of the game require strong prosecutorial activity to keep people in line then it's the rules of the game that are not well written and should be questioned. Spitzer not for sale? Well maybe not to private interests, but surely he had sold his soul to the state. Is that any better?

"Of these options hiring a prostitute is the least threatening to marriage but it's the only option which is illegal."

It may be illegal in New York, but not elsewhere. For the kind of jack
Spitzer was spending it would have been easily affordable to transport
himself to a location where prostitution is legal. Was it indicative of
his arrogance that he did not avail himself of the opportunity to
have sex with prostitute in places where it is not prohibited? Spitzer,
we must not forget, is the guy who threw his weight around: "I'm a
f---ing steamroller . . . etc." Again, he could have cheated on his wife
with a prostitute legally, just not in New York; but why should the self
acclaimed "steamroller" have to? No it was not that the intersection of
his budget set and the legal constraints of New York conspired to make
Spitzer an unwitting victim of an unlibertine system. In spite of his
clear ability to purchase sex legally elsewhere HE CHOSE to
abrigate HIS SWORN OATH to uphold NY laws (not to mention the violation
of whatever wedding vows HE SWORE TO be true to).

And while I'm steamrolling, why is it that minimizing the "threat to
marriage" is important in the wake of infidelity (whether with a
prostitute, legal or illegal, or a partner who does it without monetary
compensation)? Marriage is a contract that people agree to voluntarily.
Whatever the legal status of prostitution, if vows of fidelity are made
then the violation of the vows are, by definition, a violation of
contract. The classical liberal position is not, I do not think, that
people are freer when contracts are more often clandestinely violated.
I don't think there would be anything to celebrate if Spitzer had cheated
his wife with a "younger women" in any case, even a legal bordello.

How about the obvious? Both hiring a prostitute and having an affair mean the guy was cheating on his wife. If he does this to his wife, supposedly one of the people he loves most, why should the public at large have any trust in him?

With an affair there is still the chance that he really loves this other woman. By hiring a prostitute, he makes very clear that his personal pleasure is the only factor, and apparently more important than the people close to him. It means he's a dick.

Mr Spitzer's crime wasn't really engaging the services of prostitute. After all soliciting is considered such an insignificant crime that in some places it isn't even illegal. Mr Spitzer's real crime was hypocrisy.

There are very significant political benefits to be derived from projecting an upstanding, righteous image. Of course, as Mr Spitzer has discovered, there are very significant political downsides if the image diverges from the man.

Interestingly, a law abiding persona is not necessary for success in politics. Dana Rohrabacher (Rep, CA) has been re-elected nine times despite quotes like, "I did everything but drink the bong water". Of course, this might not have been so popular if he had been standing for attorney general.

Finally. Something on which I can agree with Alex. What an oddly prurient country we live in.

"Men such as those in Spitzer's position do not so much pay for women to have sex with them; they pay for women to go away AFTER having sex with them," said evolutionary psychologist David Buss

An affair has a different kind of maintenance cost and logistics than going to a prostitute, although as frequently as Spitzer went to the escort service, and the paper trail of his escapades grew, perhaps there was a point in time when he should have switched to a mistress.

Regarding Wolfers' analysis, it's interesting to speculate what Spitzer may have been selling.

For instance, Spitzer prosecuted some other prostitution rings at the same time he was patronizing the Emperor's Club - one would assume this gave the Emperor's Club more market share and allowed for higher pricing for customers and lower payments to its employees. It's interesting to speculate what, if anything, may have caused Spitzer to focus on those other prostitution rings while leaving the Emperor's Club to service its constituency.

The biggest meltdown in history is happening after "The Sheriff cleaned up the town." Thank God he was taken down before he could capture the Presidency.

This is a joke, from another message board:

But I’m not sure you people appreciate the various forms and nuances of “The Spitzer.† You’ve got the “Flying Spitzer,† which, I’m told, can be quite exhilarating. There’s the “Spitzer Blitzer,† but at least one of the participants must have a beard for that........hopefully the male participant. Then there’s the “Rusty Spitzer.† Kinky. There’s the “Half-Spitzer,† which is better than nothing if you’re on a budget I guess, but most people find it quite unsatisfying. There is, of course, the classic “Full Spitzer,† which is referred-to pretty much universally simply as “The Spitzer.† You don’t mess with a classic. There’s the “Spitzer-and-a-Half,† which some think is not really worth the extra money, and then there is the rarely observed “Double Spitzer,† which everybody should probably experience at least once in their lifetimes, just so they can say they have. There are, of course, stories of a “Triple Spitzer,† and many experts consider it to be nothing more than urban legend, although one Ms. Rose Pilgerfahrt of Mundelein, Illinois, claims to have performed it on two occasions with some unspecified Baldwin brothers, whilst vacationing in Los Angeles.

indiana jim,

detached scientific approach? If that is what science is these days, we have some serious problems.

You have what I see as absurd assumptions:

1. "Wives sell large amounts of time at low hourly rates and provide sexual favors of steadily declining value."
Underlying assumptions: (a) Net income flows from man to woman
(b) net sexual favors flow in the opposite direction, (c) sexual favors decrease in value over time, (d) sexual favors are given not for intrinsic value to both parties but in exchange for the monetary value of the income flow

2. "Wives demand payment in time and attention, not just cash."
Underlying assumptions: man doesn't enjoy giving time and attention to woman, or enjoy the value of the attention given him, but does it in exchange for sexual gratification or other contractually based exchange value.

There are probably more. Now, some marriages may look like this, but I feel horribly sorry for both parties involved, if they do. Despite stereotypes, some couples actually are in love and enjoy each others company; women like sex; women sometimes contribute more financially to the marriage; etc. The assumptions are sad and bigoted, and it is a lonely man who wrote it. (Or at least someone playing one).

liberty,

There are testable implications; if the implications don't hold up, THEN we reject the refuted hypotheses. This has always been the scientific approach, to my knowledge.

As Armen Alchain discussed, it may be that successful businesspersons behave "as if" they were attempting to maximize profit, regardless of whatever statements they might make suggesting otherwise. The "as if" is the thing that lots of people seem to miss in hypotheses like this.

liberty,

Scientific testing is scientific testing. By definition economics is not physics, so saying "economics is not physics" says nothing relevant to my point. Nice try at misdirection though!

"It may be illegal in New York, but not elsewhere. For the kind of jack Spitzer was spending it would have been easily affordable to transport himself to a location where prostitution is legal."

The backslash that the ex-governor has experienced is not so much because of the fact that prostitution is illegal, but that it is immoral. Spitzer has not been charged for patronizing a prostitute. Most of the negative reaction out there is emotional, and would not be any different if the ex-governor had gone out to Vegas or Holland or booked himself a sex-tour to enjoy sex-for-hire.

Most of the negative reaction out there is emotional..

I disagree, Janya. As a law enforcement officer, he prosecuted some prostitution rings while protecting and frequenting others. That's serious misconduct. As a holder of the public trust, he put himself in a position to be blackmailed, putting at risk his ability to act in the best interest of the state of NY. His use of the State police to spy on his political nemesis and assorted strongman tactics already drove his approval ratings into the 20's. I don't think the reaction is emotional. I think it's completely rational. The evidence shows he is not fit for public office.

i posted about some of this a couple of days ago. http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2008/03/legalizing-pros.html#trackback

So, since John McCain admitted to repeatedly cheating on his first wife and mother of his children, should the public have no trust in him? Or, as the article implies, do we have different standards for different types of adultery (and/or different politicians)?

The difference between Spitzer and McCain is that McCain did his shenanigans almost thirty years ago, admits them, and says he has grown up since then (caveat: unless this new thing with what's her face is true) (caveat to caveat: I don't think it is)

Spitzer did his stuff in the last month.

Now, a case could be made why Spitzer has to be out but Vitter does not. I think the deal with Vitter but not Spitzer hanging on is that Vitter's also happened in the past, it was well over before it was disclosed publically, and his wife already knew about it and had forgiven him. And Spitzer hyprocisy is a little more specific in that he was an AG who prosecuted prostitution vice just a generic 'family values' crusader.

I'd like to talk about music appreciation. Music fans notice a style of music that is new and different when they are about 13. Some fans spend the rest of their life listening to music in the first genre that thrills them. Other fans spend the rest of their life searching for music that is new and different from what they've heard before. In both cases they want to repeat that early transcendent joy.

Fans of musical consistency argue with fans of musical novelty and seem incapable of understanding each other.

Let's talk about sex. Postulate that Spitzer gets a transcendent feeling from novel sexual experiences. Folks like me who enjoy repeating the same experiences with the same woman have difficulty understanding this. My colleagues have suggested that Spitzer should have 1) stayed a bachelor 2) had free affairs 3) used cheaper services.

1) Seems immoral. Spitzer should have deprived his parents of grandchildren? Deprived his wife of the chance to bask in his magnetic steamroller glow? Deprived his children of life itself?

2) Seems immoral. He's at the top of the Albany pyramid. Everyone he meets works for him or is a lobbyist. It's an abuse of power unless he cheats with an equal (a set effectively limited to Hillary Clinton). To Spitzer that kind of power abuse is immoral.

3) Seems reasonable... but imagine yourself as the lady. I'm a rational economic actor. $4000 for sex is a rational exchange. I wouldn't sell myself for $100 unless I was desperate or addicted. It would have been easy for Spitzer to fool himself that by paying a lot he was ensuring a competent, rational economic transaction. Also, a $4000 lady wouldn't jeopardize her position in the underworld by selling out to the tabloids, avoiding the hazard of NY losing a crime fighting governor.

In the same planet and at the same time ....

http://www.reuters.com/article/bondsNews/idUSN1216491420080313
http://www.roozonline.com/english/archives/2008/03/police_chief_exposed_in_a_sex.html

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