Sunday, May 31, 2015

Corruption is winning

I'm back to driving an old car with mere broadcast radio, and that means a hefty dose of National Public Radio. When the FIFA indictments broke last week, NPR and the BBC (which runs on NPR) were all over it, interviewing "football" enthusiasts all over the world. The distinct impression was that Anglo-Saxons were all for the indictments, and more or less everybody else thinks it is American imperialism of some sort, pushing our cultural values and system to the detriment of the rest of the world. In this view, bribing is just another word for the things we do together, and who is to say whether it is a bad thing? The answer, of course, is Anglo-Saxons, whose descendants run most of the few fairly honest governments on earth (with all deference to the Scandinavians and a few city states and such).

Of course, one might stake out the principled position that official corruption is bad and ought to be prosecuted, but that Americans are not the people to do that job in the case of FIFA, or in many other cases. There is indeed a rather breathtaking arrogance in the American attitude about territory, especially in matters of taxation and business regulation. If (say) the French indicted senior officials in the (say) National Football League because they had held a relevant meeting in (say) Martinique or wired money through a bank regulated by France, most Americans -- and especially most American politicians -- would sputter in indignation. Yet that is what the Obama administration is doing in the FIFA case, more or less.

All of this nattering about American arrogance and British payback for losing out on the 2018 World Cup distracts us from the real point, which is that the biggest sport in the world is corrupt at its core. Don't forget that, no matter the blather about the Obama administration or American legal "imperialism."

We Anglo-Saxons, however, need to look at our own clay feet. In the United States, we have legalized corruption in our politics by various means. Everybody sees that Washington and many state capitals are places where permissions are now bought and sold with a careful attention to legality. See, e.g., the ridiculous posturing over the Clintons and their foundation, which has devolved in to a discussion of whether laws are broken rather than an honest debate about whether their behavior is wrong and morally corrupt, which it surely would be if everybody to the left of center were not terrified of a GOP sweep of the federal government in 2016.

This is the seemingly inevitable result of three big changes over the last couple of generations. First, political campaigns have become tremendously expensive, so politicians need a huge amount of money just to stay in office. Second, the regulatory state only metastasizes, with ever more federal, state and local permissions required to do really anything, and a swelling growth of affirmative mandates that extend well beyond basic consent. Many of these permissions and mandates involve such high stakes that the various victims and beneficiaries push for changes in the law or regulation to favor them at the expense of their competitors, and those changes tend to come from politicians who are financially supported by interested parties. This is "regulatory capture" to a progressive, and "crony capitalism" to a Tea Partier, but the meaning is the same. And the politicians say that it is not their money -- that will come after they leave office and start representing victims and beneficiaries of regulation -- but they need it just the same to pay for the next campaign. Third, our courts have correctly recognized that free speech also costs a great deal of money, and that if we require permissions from politicians for that we will have destroyed the First Amendment.

Progressives believe that the best solution to this is to regulate the spending of money on speech, at least if they do not approve of the source of the money or the speaker. Genuine small government conservatives, who are in no greater supply than principled progressives, believe that the best solution is to restore the inherent limits on government, so that there are many fewer permissions and mandates to be traded by politicians. Since neither progressives nor small government conservatives are likely to win their argument any time soon, if ever, and since political campaigns are not going to get any cheaper, we can expect our American style of lawful corruption to continue. Deep down, Americans understand this, which is why only partisans are worked up over the Clintons, pro or con. We know of no other way for the system to work, given that campaigns are so expensive, free speech costs money, and government now involves itself in virtually every moment of American life. But it still disgusts us.

12 comments:

"The Hammer" said...

The answer is smaller government. But ain't no bowtie wearing, David Brooks clone, sit down when you pee country club Republican gonna do shit about it! Time for a cultural revolution!

TigerHawk said...

That is of course my preferred answer as well, but it is a losing rear guard action. Too many people have too much to lose, and the result is that even people who *say* they are for such things have a long list of other people that they want to regulate, mandate, and so forth.

Tim Irwin said...

This is one of the best and most concise summaries of our current situation I have ever read. Came here via Instapundit.

TM Lutas said...

Imagine a world where the small government conservatives win. Further put the restriction that there's no revolution or out of doors political activity. What would that look like? I did that experiment and found out that we're missing half the necessary pieces to get the job done, which is why we're losing. The cure is to create those pieces. I'm talking about having access to the full code of laws, rules, and regulations that apply to you, for a start. That's actually not meaningfully available but it should be and it should be available cheaply.

There's very little that needs to be changed from a legal standpoint. It's mostly an attitude change among the people and one that's not unattractive to most people.

Tucanae Services said...

You miss the point -- Of course the Clinton Foundation is corrupt. That is a given. All the gnashing of teeth is about how to bring them down on one side and those that don't on the other.

TBlakely said...

"who are in no greater supply than principled progressives"

I suspect there are more unicorns than principled progressives.

P. Aaron Jones said...

Repeal the 17th amendment. Change won't come in one fell swoop. Chip away at it. Having senators once again selected stateside rather than by popular state vote would break up (some of) the Monopoly money that influences those elections and diminish the DC based chamber we now suffer. It's a small step but, we got here over almost a century. The New Deal added grease to the skids. Slowly dial it back.

Chap said...

Congrats on the Instalanche.

William A. said...

@ P. Aaron Jones -- Why? Abraham and the post-civil-war courts put the 10th amendment to bed. The 17th is just icing on that cake.

Anonymous said...

Abolish the 17th Amendment is a good start. The problem with smaller government is that it lacks the prog/RINO opps for graft.
If people keep voting for them, they won't get Rule of Law government unless it comes with corruption.

The alternative is Real Revolution. The argument for REAL REVOLUTION gets better every month. But I see no one organizing a cadre to lead it and foment the needed violent outcome. S..... (zzzzzz).

Anonymous said...

Abolish the 17th Amendment. Shut down D.C. for legislative purposes and rotate federal legislative sessions between NYC, Chicago, Atlanta, LA, Houston, Denver, Philadelphia, Miami, Phoenix & St. Louis. Put the legislature with the people.

Anonymous said...

Democrats lost America's first Civil War because they enslaved Black people. Democrats are going to lose America's second Civil War because they attempted to enslave White people...

Not every Democrat was a KuKluxKlan member, but every KuKluxKlan member was a democrat.

When peaceful recourse is denied, violent redress becomes justified, it becomes manifold.

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