If the Gallup World Poll had been around in the early 1770s, one wonders what percentage of colonial Americans would have said they believed there was widespread corruption in government. Whatever the percentage might have been, we know where colonial America’s disgust with British corruption led: a revolution that replaced a monarchy with a Republic.
The American Founders were determined to create a Republican form of government that would pit special interests against each other so that constitutional outcomes would represent the common good. As Weekly Standard writer Jay Cost writes in his new book, “A Republic No More: Big Government and the Rise of American Political Corruption,” “[p]olitical corruption is incompatible with a republican form of government. A republic strives above all else to govern for the public interest; corruption, on the other hand, occurs when government agents sacrifice the interests of everybody for the sake of a few.”
Cost is so good at describing the problem of corruption that I wish to quote him at length below. Read his explanation and ask yourself whether Cost is describing your views about corruption and government.
“And so we return to one of the earliest metaphors we used to define corruption: it is like cancer or wood rot. It does not stay in one place in the government; it spreads throughout the system. When a faction succeeds in getting what it wants at the expense of the public good, it is only encouraged to push its advantage. By the same token, politicians who aid them and reap rewards for it have an incentive to do it some more, and to improve their methods to maximize their payoffs. Moreover, these successes inspire other politicians and factions to try their hands at raiding the treasury to see if they can do it, too. Thus, a vicious cycle is created that erodes public faith in government, which further contributes to the cycle. When people stop believing that anything can be done to keep the government in line, they stop paying attention carefully or maybe cease participating altogether.
“Ultimately, the public is supposed to be the steward of the government, but how well can it perform that task when it no longer believes doing so is worth its while? How does a democratic government prosper over the long term if the citizenry does not trust the government to represent its interests? How will that not result in anything but the triumph of factionalism over the common good?
“The legitimacy of our government is supposed to derive from the people, and the people alone, who consent to the government because, they believe, it represents their interests. In its ultimate form, corruption eviscerates that sacred notion. The people stop believing that the government represents their interests, and the government in turn begins to operate based upon something other than consent. Put simply, corruption strikes at the heart of our most cherished beliefs and assumptions about republican government. That makes it extremely dangerous to the body politic, regardless of what the Bureau of Economic Analysis says about the rate of GDP growth.”
Read the rest here...