This is perhaps the bitterest post ever.
We in the West (particularly in the UK) have been smug and complacent about corruption in the political class and among public officials. Corruption (we suppose) bedevils the Third World. Poor bloody blacks in Africa live in kleptocracies. South American governments have habitually preyed upon their peoples by bribery and corruption. Who you know determines your influence. There is a lot of truth in these suppositions. To start a business in Peru requires yards of forms to be filled in and years of palm greasing. All this is true.
An anecdote is relevant here. When I was on the point of moving to Brazil in the 1970s, Post Office and other officials bent over backwards to ease the issues of “exporting” our meagre belongings. They were on my side.
On the other side of the Atlantic things were different. I was lucky enough to have an intelligent and sophisticated friend to accompany me when I went to “liberate” my imported property. We went to Office No 1. The guy sent us to Office No 2. From there we went to Office No 3 and eventually back to Office No 1. When my Brazilian friend explained the situation to the official we had originally encountered, he casually opened a drawer and handed me the necessary form. This smug Brit (me) then (mentally, already smart enough not to do so aloud) poured vituperation on this sad, corrupt twat. He was not on my side. His only objective was to keep his colleagues in Offices 2 – 3 (or 4 or 5) in jobs.
We Brits, I said to myself, would not put up with crap like this. I felt superior.
Corruption is now endemic in the West. I was listening today to Burt Folsom. He quoted FDR’s friends. Roosevelt openly used federal money to buy votes for the Democratic Party.
Mitt Romney, not a hero of mine, pointed out that close to 50% of the electorate had a vested interest in keeping entitlements high. Obama didn’t point this out – Hopey, Changey, don’t you know. But that is how he got elected.
The European Union is another case in point. There are net contributors and net recipients. We and Germany are net contributors. We are not members of the Euro. Germany is. Germany benefits (short-sightedly) from a weak currency; it is a manufacturing country. Recipient countries are very keen to increase the contributions of contributor countries. Surprising?
We are now faced with the new seven year EU budget. The EU has failed for the 17th year to have its accounts signed off. You and I (as businessmen) would be in prison for such dereliction.
Corruption Rules. Schmucks like me have no cause to be smug and complacent about our supposed superiority over third world countries.
There are two groups of workers in society, to oversimplify. Once upon a time there were private sector workers, who characteristically earned a bit more than those in the public sector; but the public sector workers were compensated by inflation-proofed pensions and other benefits. Now the public sector lot have not only inflation-proofed pensions and other benefits, but higher salaries as well. Gordon Brown deliberately engineered this situation. He calculated that an inflated public sector would vote for New Labour. He wasn’t wrong. This is corruption on a massive scale. Yes, of course, I feel superior to those who exploit their fellow men with the connivance of the state.
Britain, the EU and the USA are as corrupt as the states of South America and the kleptocracies of Africa. In Britain we may be a bit better off than Zimbabwe, for the time being. Once upon a time, we in the Christian West might have hoped that the moral intuition of our fellow men would protect us. Our intellectuals have sabotaged our moral intuition.