Robert Higgs says that politicians can be brought down for relatively minor offenses, but get away with, and are even praised for, the truly abominable crimes they commit:
According to an Associated Press report of May 20, 2008, New York Representative Vito Fossella will not seek re-election to Congress. In the wake of Fossella’s arrest for drunken driving on May 1, it has come to light that the Republican congressman from New York has fathered a child with a Virginia woman, Laura Fay, who is a former Air Force lieutenant colonel and military liaison to Congress. (Looks as though hers was a liaison dangereuse.) Given that Fossella is married and has three children at home on Staten Island, this revelation does not bode well for his political future.
Okay, okay, you are saying. Nothing is more humdrum than another exposure of a hypocritical congressman–naturally Fossella specialized in socially conservative positions that appealed to his many Catholic constituents. But such always-gratifying revelations have a larger lesson to teach us: a member of Congress will not be forgiven a personal peccadillo, but he may with complete impunity commit the greatest crimes–grand larceny, mass murder, arson, and every other species of abomination–by authorizing and funding their commission by government agents. Indeed, not only may a member of Congress act as an accessory to great crimes, he is expected to do so, and rewarded lavishly by the public with re-election to office and all the honors and aggrandizements that accompany his entrenchment in that occult and wicked temple known as the Capitol.
Steal a hundred dollars, go to jail; steal a trillion dollars, go on to fame and fortune as a public servant. Kill one man, go to the gas chamber; kill a million people, go on to well-paid retirement at public expense and big bucks on the lecture circuit. Alert children are learning these lessons, and acting accordingly when they become old enough to run for election to public office.
Not only have Americans split the atom, they have–mirabile dictu–split their moral sense. Countless actions for which any ordinary person would be denounced to the heavens will serve to sustain a lifetime’s political career. Lie, cheat, and steal and your friends will condemn and abandon you, but do the same on a hugely greater scale in your capacity as a public representative and the voters will stand by you to the end.
Just don’t father an out-of-wedlock child. That’s so vile!