Arguably the greatest brake on a society’s progress is Corruption. This is nothing new. Corruption has been with us since the beginning. There are many different forms of Corruption, but it is generally about abusing power for your own benefit. The Corrupt ruler or politician does a favor (often of the illegal variety) for someone, in return for something else.
The most common form of Corruption is to take money from those who want the favors. People give money to the powerful so that they can make more money themselves. Bribes can be direct payments, like bundles of cash, but this is rather “old school”. Most bribery now is done much more “indirectly”. It might be through multiple bank accounts to various third parties, so the trail is difficult to trace. It could be done through donations to political campaigns, or investments in dummy corporations. There are almost innumerable methods today, but the basic model is payment for the misuse of authority.
Another form of Corruption, almost as widespread, is to gain the power and authority to do the favors for yourself (or your friends and family). Plenty use their positions in government or business to enrich themselves unscrupulously at the expense of others. There may not be any bribery, but the effect on society is the same, as the rules are bent or broken to provide an unearned advantage.
The more Corruption in a country, the worse the conditions, economically, and in terms of personal liberty. Corruption is a huge tax on everyone and every business. And yet this tax doesn’t go to the government for the common good. It goes into the pockets of criminals, for that is what the corrupt are. Fortunately for those of us living in the United States, bribery is not as prevalent as it is in many other parts of the world, but Corruption is still a major problem.
Politicians regularly take money (usually in the form of campaign contributions) from businesses in return for writing laws favorable to those businesses. This is corruption. It is taking a bribe in return for a “favor”. The laws might be barriers that prevent open and equal competition. They might be laws that provide special grants or reduce or eliminate taxes on certain products. The laws don’t even have to be for businesses, they could be for certain professions. There are plenty of laws, for example, that are advantageous to lawyers at the expense of everyone else.
Politicians in the US also regularly use their positions to enrich themselves through the manipulation of laws, regulations, and ordinances. I once heard it said that while the Corruption at the national level is most regularly reported on, Corruption is much worse at the state and local level. Look at your own state house and city/county governments. Notice how many are involved in Real Estate in their careers. Why do you think this is? It’s because many of them are using their positions of power to increase the value of their holdings in ways that others cannot. The altruistic politician, the one who is sacrificing his or her time solely for the benefit of others, is the exception, not the rule.
What To Do
We all need to spend more time looking at our politicians. We can’t vote for someone based on their looks or on their advertising. We have to investigate what they have done in the past, and try to anticipate what they might do in the future. Read about candidates, what they have done, and what their positions are. Then try to educate others around you about what you have learned. This will influence more than one vote.
We need to remove individuals from power who are Corrupt. We need to question the wisdom of voting for the incumbent and allowing them to retain power if they have abused it. We should continually be seeking out good alternatives to replace those that have failed the public trust.
We need to purge our political and economic systems that of anything that creates an uneven playing field. All should have the same advantages. There should never condone a system where there is one set of rules for those with power and influence and another set for those who have little or none.