I get very little disagreement when I express my exasperation with the state of political affairs in the United States. This is true even, in my frustration, when I make the blanket accusation that corruption is at epidemic levels in the USA. In cooler moments, I realize that I’m over-generalizing. On the other hand, corruption is still on the march across the United States and in too many nations across the globe.
In the 1970s, my college political science instructor taught that to understand how nations lose their integrity is to understand the subversive nature of corruption. In the same way that without legal controls “just a little” thievery can evolve into grand theft; “just a little” corruption can pollute a government into a state of anarchy.
In that first poli-sci course, we learned that corruption affects disadvantaged citizens the worst, in wealthy or poor countries. Corruption soon negatively affects all levels of society, once it gets a foothold.
Anyone who has been paying attention to recent events, can see how corruption has undermined political discussion, democracy, the environment, the economy, our level of well-being, health, morale, and our nation’s cohesiveness. As levels of corruption
increase and become normal, higher levels of strife and instability occur within and outside of a nation.
A democratic country easily becomes corrupt when money has become the major determinant in the conduct of elections. The most “generous” contributors to a campaign effectively expect returns on their “investments”. If there are no limits on campaign spending, there are no limits to the amount of influence that contributors can expect. In that regard, a sizable share of US citizens argue that corruption was legalized as a result of the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in the “Citizen’s United” case.
While the state of corruption in the US seems terrible at the present time, this certainly isn’t a new phenomenon. A person only needs to skim the history books to find plenty of earlier examples.
In 1922, President Harding’s Interior Secretary, Albert Fall accepted more than $400,000 from Mammoth Oil and Pan America Petroleum to guarantee leasing rights to the oil reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyoming.
In 1989, The “Keating Five” were five US Senators accused of corruption. This was the “tip of the iceberg” as the larger Savings and Loan crisis hit the nation. The five politicians used their influence to prevent the auditing of Charles Keating, Chairman of the Lincoln Savings & Loan Association. Ultimately, that association collapsed, causing billions of dollars of losses. In the process, the senators’ reputations were also trashed.
In 1932, North Dakota Governor William Langer and five co-conspirators required every state employee to donate part of their annual paychecks to his political efforts. The practice was not prohibited by North Dakota state law. The catch was, in the collection of “donations” by the highway department employees who were paid through federal relief monies. The US attorney charged that the highway department “donations” constituted a conspiracy to defraud the federal government. The situation degenerated even more, as Langer declared North Dakota an independent state. He barricaded himself in the governor’s mansion, and declared martial law. A settlement was eventually reached and a new governor replaced Langer.
That is only a tiny sample of corrupt dealings in the US past. At home and abroad, the perception of corruption is extremely high. But governmental corruption isn’t the only place that corruption is found, nor even the worst.
At the international level, the dominant economic system has given birth to globalization during the past few decades. The power of major corporate interests has retarded efforts to scrutinize the causes and effects of globalization. Some experts claim that “acceptable economic influence” has caused corruption to grow, and living conditions of the world’s
people to decline. In many nations, people already had little say-so about their own destinies. Effective citizen participation and representation has been greatly harmed by
on-going, “legal” corruption.
The crises of inequality in the United States and in many other countries are difficult to measure. However, inequality is frequently integrated into the legal structure. We find such things as “free trade” agreements and massive “trade partnerships”. These are extremely difficult to defeat once they are written into national and international law.
There can be very little doubt that corruption at all levels, in all of our institutions, is enormously destructive to humanity.
Because of increasing awareness of serious corruption around the world, The United Nations, in 2003, declared each December 9th to be commemorated as International Anti-Corruption Day. The day recognizes that the world continues to face runaway
escalation in levels and degrees of corruption. Business scams continue to fuel the breakdown of political institutions, by way of over-funding political parties and
The efforts to counter corruption must be done at the global level because it is currently very easy for sources of corruption to migrate to “immune” nations.
Two United Nations agencies have been working on a global campaign to bring about awareness of how corruption harms society. The UN’s efforts focus on how corruption affects health, development, prosperity, justice, and democracy.
The end results of unbridled corruption are poverty, instability, infrastructure collapse, intra-state conflict and failure, and international disarray and conflict. One doesn’t
have to look far to notice these symptoms are growing already.
We not only need to commemorate anti-corruption day, today, but we urgently need to counter corruption all the time.
The Blue Jay of Happiness has this link to official information about International Anti-Corruption Day: http://www.anticorruptionday.org/