There was mention of corruption in the Rainbow Nation in a recent post on Nourishing Obscurity.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not going to defend the ludicrous and barbarous (and racist) South African regime. South Africa is heading rapidly down the slope towards failed state status.
But corruption isn’t as straightforward as it seems. We in the West have always liked to preen ourselves on the fact that there’s much mess corruption in our countries than in Third World countries. For alt-right types it’s reassuring proof of our ethnic superiority. For the modern globalist Left and for the cuckservative Right it’s proof of the essential superiority of liberal democracy and it demonstrates that we’re right to bomb the living daylights out of Third World countries until they accept the gift of Freedom and Democracy.
But are we less corrupt? It depends on what you mean by corruption. There are two types of corruption, illegal and legal. Illegal corruption is the most familiar type. On a large scale it means paper bags filled with banknotes being handed over to crooked officials in exchange fir services rendered. On a small scale it means handing over small amounts of cash to bureaucrats to persuader them to process your paperwork in 24 hours rather than six weeks. Illegal corruption tends to be rife in many Third World countries. It has also been common in some western countries at certain times, particularly among the police – Chicago during Prohibition, New South Wales in the 60s and 70s, etc. But illegal corruption has become much less common in the West. It’s illegal since it involves actions that are quite clearly and unequivocally against the law.
Legal corruption is a different animal. It involves practices that are not technically illegal. Let’s say you have a politician who gains important public office. After a decade or two he retires. And then he has an extraordinary stroke of luck. He gets offered a consultancy job by the Absolutely Gigantic Corporation Inc. For a few hours work a week (or possibly no work at all) he’ll collect an enormous pay cheque. Now no-one can actually prove that he was given that job in exchange for services rendered. Maybe the Absolutely Gigantic Corporation Inc just likes paying people lots of money for nothing. On the other hand I think most reasonable people will conclude that it’s a form of delayed legal pay-off.
Superannuated politicians also have an amazing knack for landing well-paid job involving virtually no work with international bureaucracies like the U.N. and the E.U. In Australia quite some time back a prime minister who had been unceremoniously thrown out of office by the voters found himself with a very cushy job indeed (involving lots and lots of luxury travel) as Ambassador to a certain U.N. agency. Most Australians had no idea that this absurd job even existed. I’m told that former U.S. presidents can get paid immense amounts of money for standing up in front of a bunch of bankers for half an hour and telling them that bankers really are a swell bunch of guys.
In cases like these it’s not necessarily always corruption in the formal sense of a pay-off for a specific corrupt act. But it is all part of a political, business and bureaucratic culture of doing favours and looking after political allies. It creates a fundamentally corrupt culture. It makes democracy, an inherently corrupt system, even more corrupt.
But this respectable corruption is hard to quantify and almost certainly isn’t going to show up in any official statistics anywhere so we can go on preening ourselves on our moral superiority. In actual fact it’s not that we’re less corrupt, we just practice corruption in a nicer and more efficient way.