“And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that. All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Lord Acton
As a class, politicians have always been distrustful, if not outright contemptuous of the voter class. They might be right, but it is a dangerous practice to allow those feelings to show.
In the end politicians are merely reinforcing voter prejudice against the ‘political class’. Sure the average voter might see ‘their man’ as generally apart from the rest, perhaps even trustworthy. But that positive potential is offset by the ‘presidential’ campaign style which leads to an increasing voter schizophrenia; i.e. an unbalance across the voting landscape.
It is like trying to build one winning local team from often antagonistic players drawn from competing local teams. However, the fact remains that unbalance is one of the few weapons voters have, against the political class.
Yet the reality is, voter and politician are in fact, one in the same person. To be sure, there might be a barrier of money separating political hopefuls from other mortals, but there is nothing to suggest each would not take equal advantage of the opportunities of power.
The perks and temptations of office a reality and it should be a concern that many representatives confess to not understanding where the lines exist between fair and outright wrong.
The rational often presented in defence is often faulty:
“They did it too,” seems a particular favorite of the Republicans.
“The lobbyists are the problem,” is something we are hearing frequently.
These sound like childish schoolyard responses, not the considered responses of mature adults.
The first sounds more a back handed admission than a reasonable defense. If they did it too it does not lessen the actions of anyone, but all must be investigated and prosecuted equally.
This is not a ‘lobbyist scandal’, True the lobbyist might hold forth the temptation, but no congressmen has been obliged to accept corrupt cash. The lobbyists simply represent the latest conduit for corrupt money. There will always be some medium to channel these temptations. The sad reality is that some humans will always fail the ethics test if left to their own judgment.
Some will go into office looking for their ‘entitlements’, others will simply be too weak to resist the temptation. Still others will no doubt be conned into erring, with various degrees of difficulty.
All are, once again, simply representative of those humans who elect them to power. None of it, nothing of the above excuses these people vested with the authority to manage a country’s affairs from major ethical failures.
Time for Resolution
For a more healthy ‘political class’- ‘voter class’ relationship to emerge some fundamental changes in governance are needed.
Essentially, any area which suggests ‘putting the foxes in charge of the hen house’ must be removed from the sphere of political influence.
These include; electoral reforms, remuneration and entitlements and corruption investigation, prosecution and oversight.
The corruption issue appears to be perceived as the most publicly damaging. When our politicians have already shown a tendency to be self serving it is hardly efficacious to leave the creation of corruption mitigation tools in their hands.
Two years ago, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, described Washington as "the most corrupt capital in the world". H
He said, "We have created a culture in which there's no distinction between what is illegal and what is unethical,"
For a group already know to be weak in the face of temptation it is difficult to perceive an anti corruption model which is not designed to make normally unethical activities at least legal.
Lawmakers must hand over the development of effective, standing anti-corruption agencies to outside, to appropriate non-legislative bodies. Whether the architects of new codes are academics, jurists or others trained in ethics and law is irrelevant, so long as they have no other vested interest beyond their rights as citizens.
Other countries have developed highly effective autonomous agencies with wide ranging powers to deal with public corruption There are extremely effective working models around the world which might not stop corruption, but certainly they minimize the problem.
Notable, the Independent Commission Against Crime and Corruption (ICAC) in NSW, Australia is a world leading model. ICAC operates on a clearly defined definition of corruption.
Ironically the state Premier, Nick Greiner, who shepherded the ICAC Act through parliament, was one of the agencies first victims. Although it should be pointed out that Greiner was never prosecuted for any wrongdoing, the fact shows a refreshing intent to establish an effective corruption fighting agency.
Among the ‘essential’ powers required by an agency is the ability to investigate claims against any area of public responsibility. No ‘office’ should be immune to or quarantined from scrutiny.
Laws countering corrupt practices should include provisions similar to sub-judice, which would effectively bar political comment or capital.
Such a provision serves to take corruption out of political play, and putting it firmly into the legal sphere where it rightly belongs.
The cost of another structure, an autonomous oversight layer of governance, is usually cited in opposition to establishing these agencies. The layer and the cost already exists in the form of ad hoc investigations and inquiries, in most jurisdictions.
Replacing the demand situation with standing agencies addresses a number of issues which create a barrier to any real resolution of run away corruption.
Without the constant need to reinvent the wheel, a standing agency is able to monitor the public sector, and respond quickly to complaints or allegations. Honest politicians and public sector workers greater protection when allegations are subject to proper enquiry rather than being used as political footballs.
Ongoing oversight, in reality, adds no real cost to the structure of government and offers tangible returns through providing a more focused and productive public sector. If the risk of exposure and prosecution is ever present, and likely, lawmakers and other public officers won’t be so easily tempted or distracted from their primary tasks.
1 week ago