Thursday, September 22, 2011

Politics Beyond the Beltway 9/22: What if corruption produces positive benefits?

This won't be a long one today. Just some things we discussed in lecture.

What is corruption?  Everyone has their own definition but I suppose a most basic definition is that it is the abuse of public trust for the sake of private benefit. It is the intersection of politics and self-interest.

Is an act of corruption really corruption if it reaps public benefit?  Some students in the class expressed the opinion that if the outcome is in the public's favor then it is not corruption while others such as myself held steadfast that corruption is corruption no matter how much the public may benefit. Once we excuse corruption we've set a precedent. The end cannot justify the means.

Can a corrupt act be solely for public benefit and not for private benefit? Is it possible a politician may commit an act of corruption but not so they may benefit but so their constituents may benefit? Sure. It is possible that a politician who wants the best for his or her constituents may be willing to engage in corrupt behavior in an effort to do good without seeking any private reward. Still it is corruption and that individual must face the consequences for we cannot justify corruption by weighing the positive effects of its outcome. It is either corruption or it isn't. Where do we draw the line?

A civilized society cannot reward bad behavior by justifying it, no matter how much good it may provide. Besides, ask yourselves again if the public doesn't eventually suffer one way or another by an act of corrupt behavior even if there seems to be a positive outcome.

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