aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Slate on the economics of sexual hypocrisy
God’s latest gift to columnists and standup comedians is Florida legislator Bob Allen, arrested this summer in a public restroom for offering an undercover cop $20 and a blow job (yes, that’s $20 and a blow job, not $20 for a blow job). This story has everything. First, there’s Allen’s risible defenseÃ¢â‚¬"that as the only white guy in the men’s room, he got scared and needed a way to fit in. Then there are the exquisite details, like Allen’s Web page, which lists his sole recreational interest as “water sports.” And the crowning glory: Allen’s long history as a staunch defender of family values, including an attempt to outlaw masturbation in the presence of a consenting adult. Oh, the hypocrisy!
Or maybe not. Why, exactly, do we call Mr. Allen a hypocrite? Answer: because he wants to impose standards on others that he’s not willing to impose on himself. But you could say the same thing about a lot of other politicians. Consider, for example, a U.S. Senator who seeks to raise income taxes on people in her own income bracket yet neglects to make voluntary overpayments to the government each April 15. Is she equally a hypocrite?
Hypocrisy is not an economic concept, so economic theory can’t answer that question. But it can go a long way toward clarifying the issues and sorting out good analogies from bad ones.
Slate’s on a roll! Earlier in the week they had a story about sexual math in which they examine the discrepancy between the average number of sex partners of men and women. Here we have the economics of sexual hypocrisy:
It’s perfectly rational-if a little ugly-to say: “I care enough about the homeless that I’d like to force my neighbors to feed them, but not enough that I’m willing to feed them myself.” And it’s therefore perfectly rational to say, “My first choice is that everyone but me feeds the homeless, my second choice is that everyone including me feeds the homeless, and my third choice is that nobody feeds the homeless.” But now you edge a lot closer to what might reasonably be called hypocrisy. Because now you’re imposing a standard that you’re not willing to meet voluntarily-even though the free-rider problem does not apply.
What does all this mean for family-values crusaders who solicit sex in public restrooms? It depends, I suppose, on the nuances of their positions. Suppose you’re Bob Allen: You believe that America is veering off course, and you expect that God will smite us unless 10,000,000 people all change their sinful ways. That’s like a streetlight. Either 10,000,000 others will change their ways or they won’t, and your own behavior is extremely unlikely to make a difference. Might as well go for the blow job. On the other hand, if you’re Bob Allen and you believe that each individual sinner brings marginally more divine displeasure on all of us, that’s like feeding the homeless. Your own behavior matters regardless of what everyone else does. In the first case, I might call you cold and calculating. In the second case, I might call you a hypocrite.
And ditto for the senator who calls for higher taxes but doesn’t pay them voluntarily. If those taxes are meant to pay for streetlightsÃ¢â‚¬"or for police protection, or public parks, or the military-then I’ll give her a clear pass on the hypocrisy question. But if those taxes are meant to feed the poor, we’re entitled to ask why she doesn’t go ahead and pay them without waiting for the rest of us.
Legal imigrant imprisoned & deported for consensual sex
When xenophobia and sex offender hysteria meet. San Francisco Chronicle:
A legal immigrant in Northern California who was 20 when he began a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl faces deportation to Mexico under a ruling Thursday that was described as unjust by a majority of the federal appeals court panel that issued it.
Although Juan Estrada-Espinoza’s relationship with his girlfriend was consensual, the crime he committed under state law - unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor at least three years younger than he was - is considered sexual abuse of a minor under federal law and is grounds for mandatory deportation, said the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
In a separate opinion, two members of the three-judge panel said the court was required to follow its ruling in another case last year that defined the crime as abusive in all circumstances, but should convene a larger panel to reconsider the issue. Each case should be judged on its facts, and there is no suggestion of abuse in this case, said Judge Sidney Thomas, joined in the opinion by Ronald Leighton, a visiting federal judge from Tacoma, Wash.