Green Room

The First Sign Of Corruption

posted at 4:39 pm on December 7, 2009 by

The first sign of corruption in a society that is still alive is that the end justifies the means. – Georges Bernanos

The Climagate scandal is a perfect illustration of this statement. Modern society provides plenty of other examples. The extensive corruption of our political system is one of the strongest arguments against the ongoing fusion of government and industry. People of all political persuasions are generally willing to conceded that too many politicians are corrupt. I have always wondered how intellectually serious liberals can reconcile this with their desire to increase the power of the State.

I suspect the answer lies in the belief that this new crop of statists will be honest, unlike all the generations before them. This is a dangerous delusion. Corruption festers in every large organization, but politics are more vulnerable than business… and when the two merge together, they become particularly toxic.

Political corruption is easily camouflaged, and often debatable. Since politicians live to debate, nailing them down on charges of corruption often feels like trying to pin down a drop of water with a staple gun. If a politician sponsors legislation that would truly benefit the public, but would also make him personally wealthy, is he corrupt? We would certainly view him as more corrupt if he tried to conceal his personal benefits… but if he was scrupulous about disclosing them in advance, it’s unlikely he would be able to pass the legislation, especially if he faced determined opposition.

Consider the current example of Senator Max Baucus, who took his girlfriend on taxpayer-funded junkets overseas, and has been trying to secure a U.S. Attorney position for her. She might be a splendid candidate for U.S. Attorney, as Baucus will doubtless continue to argue. That doesn’t make her nomination smell any better. It also won’t make an overtaxed electorate, shivering in the cold shadow of trillion-dollar deficits, feel any better about paying for her luxurious jet-setting romance with the Senator..

The Republicans proved themselves sadly capable of shoving their noses in the treasury during their last years in power, and were punished by the voters for it. The corruption of the Obama Democrats is truly breathtaking. Virtually nothing this Administration does is conducted in a honest, open manner. Everything from the “stimulus” bill, to Cash for Clunkers, to frantic attempts to buy House and Senate votes for the government’s health care takeover, is wrapped in pork and glazed with payoffs, cooked with a secret recipe that you can’t see without a subpoena. Some of this corruption is enabled by the Democrats’ largely accurate sense that the media will not hold them accountable for it, certainly not with the same vigor they would pursue Republicans. The raging rapids of taxpayer cash surging through Washington are a factor as well. Reckless deficit spending has made purchasing a representative or Senator the only investment guaranteed to increase in value.

At this scale of government, corruption is endemic. It doesn’t make that much of a difference which party sits on top of that much power. With the rare exception prosecuted by law enforcement, there is little immediate risk of penalty for dirty politicians. It takes years to get them voted out of office, and their local electorate might not be eager to displace a powerful, long-term incumbent with a new representative… especially if the incumbent has brought a lot of money home to the district, in addition to lining his own pockets. Big Government even corrupts the voters.

Bring all of these factors to an even higher level of centralized power and money, and it’s easy to see why the global warming movement – the birthing cry of world government – is so incredibly corrupt. The amount of money and power tied up in this movement is staggering. In fact, as they become increasingly desperate to fight off a public outraged by the Climagate revelations, the global warming cult might make the case they’re “too big to fail” – cutting off the billions of dollars poured into the global warming hoax would cost thousands of jobs, and destroy the corporate barnacles that grew around the shadow of climate change legislation, such as Al Gore’s carbon credit sales. The transnational elite planning to divide the wealth of nations through climate-change hysteria is even less accountable than Barack Obama’s corrupt Democrat Party. As Mark Steyn memorably put it, where would we go to vote these guys out of office?

At the heart of the Left’s indulgence of political corruption lies the mistaken conviction that “public service” transforms politicians into exemplars of civic virtue, or that political office attracts a large percentage of such civic-minded individuals. In reality, the political class is even more greedy and selfish than wealthy businessmen… because they spend much of their time in the company of such wealthy men, and believe themselves entitled to riches and luxuries. Max Baucus doubtless attends a lot of campaign events sponsored by rich supporters who can afford to fly their girlfriends to Europe for a romantic getaway, and he believes himself morally and intellectually superior to these men – the remorseless logic of statism demands it. It only makes sense to place politicians in control of industry if they’re better than the industrialists they control, after all.

The mythic ideal of Cincinnatus, the selfless citizen-legislator who reluctantly leaves his farm to serve the Republic, is incompatible with the combination of endless incumbency and gigantic amounts of government power. We are foolish to place our trust in a system that requires an impossible level of virtue from politicians to function as designed. A limited government can better protect the economic health of its citizens by policing corruption from the private sector, under the direction of term-limited representatives who will never become worth the risk of buying off. The larger government becomes, the more its arrogant ruling class believe themselves worthy of royal treatment… and the more justified they feel about lying to the public for their own good. That is why the climate change elite gathered in Copenhagen this week is outraged that anyone would dare question their right to save a foolish world from itself, by lying through its teeth in a bid to seize power.

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Funny, I remember when conservatives argued that a corrupt government was better than a fanatical one. And so long as most Americans were getting richer (or thought they were) , few lost sleep over corruption. It’s only now when the venality comes at the expense of our livelihoods that attention must be paid.
I doubt our legislators will term limit themselves out of office, nor will most voters rush to deprive their states and districts of the benefits of seniority by retiring longtime incumbents. Seniority kept the Yankees off Rebel backs for a century after the War Between the States – thus serving at least one section of the country’s definition of limited government.

Seth Halpern on December 8, 2009 at 9:15 AM

Small but effective steps CAN be taken to curb government power. Repeal of so called “motor voter” laws would be a terrific start. States that once had pretty healthy politics where the two major parties really had to compete are being corrupted by these ballot box manipulations. Ohio now has an election MONTH, not an election day. Why? Who benefits from a system where voter fraud is so easy?

miles on December 8, 2009 at 9:23 AM

Excerpt from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand:

“Then you will see the rise of the men of the double standard–the men who live by force, yet count on those who live by trade to create the value of their looted money–the men who are the hitchhikers of virtue. In a moral society, these are the criminals, and the statutes are written to protect you against them. But when a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law–men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed victims–then money becomes its creators’ avenger. Such looters believe it safe to rob defenseless men, once they’ve passed a law to disarm them.

Term limits are like a Fire break in the forest – it may not stop the corruption completely, but it will keep it contained and controllable.

There is nothing worse than Criminals that can re-write the rules under which they operate. Periodically purging them through term limits may be the only way of keeping the corruption under control.

Insert witty screen name here on December 8, 2009 at 9:28 AM

Doc is right on in general but his solution is faulty. The current Federal government is being modeled on Pelosi’s home state. In California the state is essentially bankrupt but the legislature refuses to budge from the anti-business, pro-union playbook. Every one of these clueless cowards in Sacramento are term limited.

Term limits have resulted in making government employee unions, like the SEIU and NEA the real power brokers in California. When the pols are term-limited out the lobbies remain. They’re all Democrats any way. The Party has used this relationship to fortify itself almost beyond caring about the next election.

Conservatives often suggest letting states experiment with new ideas and let the one’s that work be adopted nationwide. Well, California’s tried out Term Limits and it has been a DISASTER.

Give it up. It’s a pipe dream.

James DeLong’s, The Coming of the Fourth Republic I think captures the situation pretty well. We’re living the last days (hopefully) of what he’s named “The Special Interest State”.

If each party is regarded by the other as a principle-free alliance of special interests, eager to claim the government so as to loot the other side, then a large chunk of legitimacy is lost.

Many of us are at that point now. No gimmick like Term Limits can undo the corruption of today’s political structure. The people have to rise up the new Republic. The question is how long can the crooks we’ve elected loot the nation before the people are willing to turn them out?

rcl on December 8, 2009 at 9:29 AM

May I add John Murtha, D (H) 35 years and counting

diogenes on December 8, 2009 at 7:33 AM

Yup. I was just showing the Top Ten offenders. Teddy was also somewhere next on the list.

publiuspen on December 8, 2009 at 9:38 AM

Most of the solutions stated by commenters in response to this post are fantastic. They would all work all to well but we are living in a fantasy world if you think they will voluntarily give up their kingdoms. We all know deep down in our guts that we have to revolt violently before they will willfully abdicate their thrones.

larvcom on December 8, 2009 at 9:52 AM

Absolutely! And then fast track Doc Zero to replace Michael Steele as head of the RNC!

KendraWilder on December 8, 2009 at 3:51 AM

If he doesn’t consent to lead a tap dancing bear would be a better choice than Steele.

inevitable on December 8, 2009 at 9:54 AM

Yup. I eagerly await Palin running for president on a platform of “put all the corrupt pols in jail.” She’s got the creds to do it.

PersonFromPorlock on December 8, 2009 at 9:56 AM

The same people who insisted for 8 years that the government is evil now want it to control every aspect of our lives. All because the guy at the top isn’t George Bush.

And yet we’re the rubes.

Jim Treacher on December 8, 2009 at 9:58 AM

Incidentally, this makes for a very simple election project: presume corruption and vote every incumbent out. We’ll be more right than not if we do. And, it gets the Democrats out of power without letting the Republicans delude themselves that we really like them.

PersonFromPorlock on December 8, 2009 at 10:07 AM

As much as the current group of politicians digust me, including both of my esteemed Republican senators (but not yet my Republican congressman) I am in my heart of hearts opposed to term limits. Unfortunately, term limits has turned into nothing more than on the job training for the lame duck’s next position. And that lame duck status usually is guaranteed once they are elected the first time to a position. Incumbency has its advantages. Term limits is not a magic bullet that will cure all our ills. The only thing that will cure our ills is sweeping all office holders from power, wiping the slate clean and starting over again. To those who argue that this would leave no one with any experience in power, I respond is that necessarily a bad thing. Remember Henry Clay was elected Speaker of the House in his first term in office, and really didn’t do all that bad a job. Certainly couldn’t any worse that the wicked witch of the west. Actually I like the concept of gridlock and incompetency in our public officials. The less they can do, the less they can screw up. Good article Doc, as usual.

georgeofthedesert on December 8, 2009 at 10:24 AM

I used to think that pragmatism (the art of “getting things done”) was far more important than ideology. My experience as a 27 year old lawyer with a political science degree spending a year all over Vietnam in Johnson’s Adventure began my journey into small business, limited government conservatism.

I supported W only because of his aggressive post 9/11 policy of protecting the homeland against foreign forces damage and destruction. But his attempts to co-opt the Democrat/Statist gang were particularly unsuccessful.

I salute Dr. Z for articulating a powerful overriding philosophy that can return the US to the form of government intended by its founders. I hope that some congressional and senatorial candidates begin to embrace it.

vnjagvet on December 8, 2009 at 10:29 AM

vote every incumbent out…

PersonFromPorlock on December 8, 2009 at 10:07 AM

The GOP primaries are very important. Conservatives have to work against incumbent Republicans with few exceptions. Even if your guys lose perhaps the incumbent twit can be “scared straight”.

rcl on December 8, 2009 at 10:41 AM

The first sign of corruption in a society that is still alive is that the end justifies the means. – Georges Bernanos

I wonder if an even earlier sign is the very idea that ends and means are somehow separate. Unavoidably, all “means” are part of the “ends”. “The ends justify the means” implies that one focusing on one aspect of the totality of results to the exclusion of others.

If you think about it, the reality is that it is the “means” that justify the “ends.”

Count to 10 on December 8, 2009 at 10:54 AM

California has had term limits for decades. It hasn’t worked…obviously. If anything, the public employee and teacher’s unions have become even more powerful, completely controlling the legislative agenda.

There is no solution other than to make government so much smaller that we can more easily survive the inevitable corruption. Should we assume that voters will ever pay more attention to the issues than they do at present? I would think not–especially with those same teacher’s unions educating the voters for the foreseeable future.

PD Quig on December 8, 2009 at 11:10 AM

In reality, the political class is even more greedy and selfish than wealthy businessmen… because they spend much of their time in the company of such wealthy men, and believe themselves entitled to riches and luxuries.

Thanks Dr. Z.

This statement is at the heart (literally) of the matter. When men’s pride declines to the point where they can justify their means to gain an entitlement they have not
worked for, then all of society suffers.
This is seen in their greed, concupiscence and lusts that are practiced as easily as taking a breath.

We know what goeth before the fall.

OkieDoc on December 8, 2009 at 11:33 AM

Some of this corruption is enabled by the Democrats’ largely accurate sense that the media will not hold them accountable for it, certainly not with the same vigor they would pursue Republicans.

Not some. ALL.

“The information of the people at large can alone make them the safe as they are the sole depositary of our political and religious freedom.” — Thomas Jefferson

As has been stated before throughout history, a functioning, self-sustaining democracy can only be achieved through an informed citizenry. So let’s take a look at where the citizens of the US have been getting their “information” for the past 40+ years.

The education system: completely dominated by the Left for decades.

The entertainment industry: completely dominated by the Left for decades.

And finally, the news media: completely dominated by the Left for decades.

And why is any of this surprising to anyone? The complete co-opting of these institutions by the Left has been one of their stated goals – not only in the US, but throughout Western Civilization. In the early 20th century, Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) described their plan as “the long march through the culture”.

Everything you need to know about everything we’re currently seeing unfold before us is all out there in the historical record. As a matter of fact, the only voice you need to listen to in order to understand what’s happening right in front of your eyes is that of the father of the Left’s greatest “sucess”, Vladimir Lenin?

Want to know why your children are being taught to sing songs praising Obama?

“Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.” – Vladimir Lenin

Want to know why your children are about to be part of a captive audience to patently Leftist propaganda developed by radical Leftist Howard Zinn?

“We must teach our children to hate. Hatred is the basis of communism.” – Vladimir Lenin

Wondering why the Dems are running up astronomical deficits without any regard for the consequences of what will happen when the dollar inevitably crashes?

“The best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency.” – Vladimir Lenin

Can’t figure out why the Executive Branch is telling other news organizations not to follow FOX News stories?

“The press should be not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator, but also a collective organizer of the masses.” – Vladimir Lenin

Gun control?

“One man with a gun can control 100 without one.” – Vladimir Lenin

Addictive entitlements that, once enacted, are impossible to reverse?

“It is true that liberty is precious; so precious that it must be carefully rationed.” – Vladimir Lenin

The crushing tax burden that’s going to be hoisted on you in order to pay for all of this madness?

“The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation.” – Vladimir Lenin

And finally, why do we find ourselves at this cross-roads, where the barbarians are literally battering down the gates?

“To rely upon conviction, devotion, and other excellent spiritual qualities; that is not to be taken seriously in politics.” – Vladimir Lenin

I’ve just about lost hope that this tide can be stemmed peacefully. I fear that regardless of whether we win or lose the battle for Western Civilization’s soul, a world on fire is coming.

rvastar on December 8, 2009 at 12:03 PM

I haven’t had a chance to read the entire book yet but “Rules for Rdicals” has a chapter or two about ends and means that explains why Obama is the way he is. The book claims that what is truely important is… “does this particular ends justify this particular means?” and nothing else. In a pragmatic way it discusses how the ends always justify the means and that it is just a matter of perspective, thats all.

DStevens on December 8, 2009 at 2:26 PM

I’ve been struggling to read Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, which is truly an evil book, and he spends one of the early chapters making the case that the ends do justify the means or at least confusing the issue. He acknowledges moral behavior, but proceeds to claim that if necessary to win a fight for power he’d use character assassination and blackmail without qualms.

flataffect on December 8, 2009 at 11:18 PM

Funny, I remember when conservatives argued that a corrupt government was better than a fanatical one.

Funny, I don’t remember that at all.

Crawford on December 23, 2009 at 9:49 AM

The same people who insisted for 8 years that the government is evil now want it to control every aspect of our lives. All because the guy at the top isn’t George Bush.

And yet we’re the rubes.

Weird how that works, innit?

Screaming fits at the idea that an FBI agent with a warrant might take a peek at your library card, but complete comfort with the idea of J. Random Bureaucrat having full access to your medical history.

Crawford on December 23, 2009 at 9:51 AM