By Alejandro A. Tagliavini *
The prominent economist Thomas Sowell said that «politics is the art of making selfish desires appear as if they were in the national interest.» I do not believe that he was referring to the recent scandal in Australia, due to the dissemination of videos in which government employees are seen performing sexual acts in Parliament, apparently bringing prostitutes for «the pleasure of the deputies», according to the complaint. This came out after a series of cases had already occurred that have generated protests throughout the country. But, although «morally, they are finished», the truth is that they have not violated any law.
Rather, Sowell meant that, after all, the desire of every politician is to win elections or, above all, to gain power for himself no matter how.
A few days ago, in Japan, a former justice minister admitted in court that he paid bribes, to local politicians and supporters during the campaign, to have his wife elected to the upper house of Parliament. The minister resigned in October 2019, after the scandal came to light, and in June he was arrested along with his wife and remains detained in the Tokyo Detention Center.
By the way, this dismantles the myth that corruption occurs only in underdeveloped countries. Many years ago, speaking privately with an important editorialist for The Wall Street Journal, now retired, he told me that there is as much corruption among politicians in the United States as in Latin America, it is just that nobody says it, especially because the penalties for «slander» are very harsh, if the journalist cannot prove what he says or does not have enough power to prevent his judges from being biased. Some years ago, journalists of The New York Times went to jail because in a case of corruption was not that they could not prove what they wrote but due to professionalism they did not revealed their anonymous source.
A few years ago, I was in a very glamorous ski resort in «neat» Switzerland. And having coffee with a friend who spent there every season, a nice character comes in and greets many, including my friend who, when he walks away, says to me: «this guy has a lot of money, you have to ‘ask’ him for official permission if you want to build something in this town.»
«How sad it is for the republic and how hateful it is for good people to see that those who enter the public administration when they are poor end up rich and fat in public service,» said Juan de Mariana, a 16th century Spanish Jesuit and scholastic. So, looks like corruption is old.
According to the Royal Spanish Academy – to take some reference, even if it is not the best – to corrupt is to alter, disrupt the shape of something, spoil, deprave, damage, rot. Consequently, as violence is, as Aristotle already pointed out, the attempt to divert, distort, the natural course of the cosmos implies corruption. And the State is precisely the monopoly of violence and, therefore, a monopolistic corrupting agent.
Contrary to the market, where the parties peacefully and voluntarily agree on the shares – they buy and sell agreeing on a price – for the benefit of all, since otherwise the act is not carried out, the State official coercively imposes himself using his police power. Although his fallacious argument is the «law», or whatever it was, in the end, at the moment of the act, his decision is his own, egocentric. And thus, by imposing itself violently, coercively, that is, against the will of another person, it induces the violated by being dissatisfied to corrupt the bureaucrat who, normally, willingly accepts the bribe.
* Senior Advisor at The Cedar Portfolio and Member of the Advisory Council of the Center on Global Prosperity, de Oakland, California