Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Politics beyond the Beltway 9/13: Corruption

At every level of government exists corruption. Why is there corruption? Corruption exists because of individuals with a personal interest and politicians willing to sacrifice the integrity of their office and the public trust to get something for themselves, something more than that office intended.

When we vote, we vote for people who will get things done. We elect politicians into office who we believe will benefit us and do the most good. If a particular politician promises to build more schools in our overcrowded school district, aren't we more likely to vote for him or her? If a particular politician plans to widen the congested roadways in  our city isn't it likely we would support that especially since we commute daily? We're not exactly innocent here. We expect that when we vote them into office, our elected officials will thank us by giving us what we want. That's not easy though, our wants and needs come with a price. Are we willing to pay that price?

Politicians are supposed to act in the best interests of the people they represent. To get that something, the politicians make deals and some of them not so kosher. Where I think it goes wrong is when the politicians  put their personal interests and well-being ahead of the public in the course of carrying out these deals.When politicians begin receiving money or special favors in the course of their dealings, that's where things start to go wrong.

An interesting question was posed by Professor today, "Have the American people ever benefitted from corruption?" (or something to that effect). Interestingly enough, the answer is yes. Take the Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska for example. Look at both sides of the issue. On one hand we had a bridge that cost millions of taxpayer funds linking to an island with very few inhabitants. Some people made a killing off of that project. But aside from the corrupt politics, who else benefitted? Construction workers who built the bridge, the local economy of the island, the companies that supplied the materials,etc. The ends do not justify the means but it was something worth throwing out there.

We complain about corruption and we feel that there's little we can do about it. There's two types of government corruption--individual, which is easier to remove and systemic which is more difficult because it involves a larger entity. Systemic corruption is more than just a few corrupt individuals or situations, it occurs when the system is dominated by corruption, both individuals and groups. Many countries around the world suffer systemic corruption, where one cannot even begin to figure out where to start in annihilating it, it's so deep and so interwoven between layers and layers of bureaucracy.

Next installment: More on corruption and abuse of power...stay tuned!

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