Government is Corrupt by Its Nature and There’s Nothing You Can Do About It
Note: Another piece from my "I Wish I Wrote This" Collection! Facebook friend and renegade thinker, Don Cooper never disappoints. If you're looking for a way to 'cure' government corruption by waiting for the next election, this one's for you! BW
Most believe that if a government is corrupt then it’s because the people running it are corrupt so the solution is to vote ‘good’ people into office to replace the corrupt ones. But after thousands of years of voting, governments are still corrupt. Are we to believe that everyone is corrupt, that there are no ‘good’ people? By the law of large numbers alone, there should have been governments somewhere in history that weren’t corrupted. How long must humanity tilt at windmills before it realizes there is something innately putrid with politics? The explanation is that the nature of the institution by its existence is corrupt so it doesn’t matter who is running it, it will always be corrupt.
It’s said in economics that a rational decision is one in which the benefits to the decision-maker are subjectively considered to be greater than the costs. For example, when you buy milk, you look at the price and subjectively determine if the value of the milk is worth the price. If it is then it’s a rational economic decision to trade the money for the milk. An irrational decision is one in which the costs to the decision maker are subjectively considered to be greater than the benefits, which would make the decision self-destructive. For example, someone under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or some other addiction might decide that it’s a good idea to withdraw all their savings and go on a week-long binge to Las Vegas without telling anyone.
Each individual’s subjective cost-benefit analysis also implicitly considers their own subjective sense of morality. Adhering to a subjective moral compass has benefits for some while others couldn’t care less, so morality imposes a cost to some, and not to others. So how does this apply to the decision making of people who hold elected political positions?
There are no rules or laws that govern what political candidates can say or promise during a political campaign. The objective is simply to get the most votes, period, and to do that you have to be popular with the voters. In other words, candidates have the incentive to tell constituents whatever they want to hear regardless if it has any basis in reality or not. A candidate can tell a group of AARP voters that he will ‘fight’ – whatever that means — to get them more social security money at an earlier age whether that’s possible or not and whether or not he even has any intention of doing so. But, technically speaking, there is absolutely nothing wrong or illegal about his promise. Nor does he have any obligation to honor those campaign promises, he didn’t sign a contract with the voters, they’re just abstractions, ideas ruminating in the voter’s subconscious to be accessed in the voting booth. How many times have politicians said things like: “If elected I promise … “ and then he never does it and nothing happens to him?
Considering there are no consequences to generalizing, half-truths, exaggerating, embellishing, sensationalizing the truth or even outright lying and potentially huge benefits if elected, it’s a perfectly rational decision to do so if your moral compass is so aligned. In fact it’s a must because if even one candidate does so, then they all must in order to remain competitive. This ability to bend political reality is a competitive advantage for those who choose to use it, so if a candidate has already invested his time, effort and money in a campaign, he must do the same to have a chance at winning. Imagine if one candidate promises AARP voters more social security at an earlier age while another tells them the truth: the social security trust fund is empty, full of IOUs from the Treasury. Current payments are made with current contributions, a sort of Ponzi scheme. But the number of retirees is growing and the number of workers diminishing so the retirement age will continue to go up and your benefits will continue to go down. Vote for me!
Political campaigning is demonstrably an inherently corrupt process so it attracts those who are inherently corrupt and have no moral or ethical problems with it. Anyone who believes lying and manipulating people for their personal benefit is morally and ethically deplorable – good people — would never campaign in the first place. The subjective costs to them, namely their principles and integrity, would be greater than any potential benefits.
The same cost-benefit analysis is done by the politicians if elected only now it’s even worse. Now the costs are even lower and the benefits are so great they bear no resemblance to reality. When elected to congress, you have absolutely no job description, no responsibilities whatsoever, come to work, don’t come, doesn’t matter. There are no job performance reviews, you have a guaranteed job for four years starting at $176,000/year, more than three times the average salary of an American household. You receive money from lobbyists, benefit from insider trading, Cadillac health care, free coach class airfare, secret service security, and many other non-monetary benefits, and still no consequences for generalizing, half-truths, exaggerating, embellishing, sensationalizing the truth or even outright lying so it’s perfectly rational to continue to do so.
How many times have we seen members of Congress brought before a congressional hearing and they simply claim the fifth or deny everything or say something childish and stupid like “I can only confirm or deny that fact that I was asked a question.” and nothing happens?
As long as the nature of the institution offers such incentives, only corrupt people will occupy those political positions and government will continue to be corrupt, there is no solution, not even voting. Because how did those corrupt people get in office in the first place? If you’re honest, it was by voting.