08 March 2008

Corruption

I haven't yet commented on the spectacle of numerous Members of Parliament being caught with their hand in the till.

I didn't see it as an immediately pressing issue; the money would be taken from us anyway, because they can, and if they didn't steal it they'd only squander it on public services. Why should some worthless Capacity Building Officer or PFI salesman get the money rather than the Speaker of the House or a Tory MP's children?

It's not even unfair. Nobody is excluded from political power by birth. Anyone with the sheer determination and single-mindedness to dedicate their entire lives to the soul-destroying business of working politics, can, with only a little luck, achieve lucrative office. A modicum of intelligence or charisma can help, but are clearly not essential: it's just a long hard slog of inane meetings with morons, and overriding your own idiotic beliefs at every opportunity with whatever different idiotic opinions will advance your career. No worthwhile human being would take the job on for the prospect of a million a year, so there's little reason to worry even about pulling people away from productive work.

On the other hand, so long as the politicians' avarice and dishonesty is sufficiently publicised, it will have immense practical benefit. So many people in this country labour under the illusion that government exists to serve the people. Dispelling this will draw attention away from what government purportedly does for us, and onto what government does to us. Democracy or not, the people have some influence over government by virtue of their capacity for civil disobedience, riot, and assassination, but this influence is currently misdirected towards what the government does with its ill-gotten gains, rather than to what it takes and what it does to secure itself.

So corruption: I'm in favour of it, and I want to hear all about it.

I didn't always think this way about MPs, but when my MEP, one of the only elected representatives I have ever voted for, attracted some controversy, I was immediately delighted - the notion that EU funds could end up in any better place than his private bank account never occurred to me.

See also this old Theodore Dalrymple article, suggesting that Italy's murderously corrupt governments have been generally for their country than our relatively honest ones. (via Brian Micklethwait)

No comments: