John Livingston News

Corruption Revisited

“Must I put up with fraudulent measure, or the administration of the short weight bushel? Must I hold the man honest who measures with false scales and a bag of faked weights?” Micah: 10-11.

In the Old Testament, the word corrupt is used as both an adjective and a verb. It can mean causing to act dishonestly or perverting a transaction like with a bribe or a threat. Corruptions are as old as time and as ubiquitous in all societies as there are people participating in any form of social or economic transactions. They become a way of business—sometimes being used as a barrier to entry and other times being used to influence the actions of not only the parties to the transaction, but also the community where the transaction is occurring. Think of the bully on the playground making physically inferior children pay tribute to him for protection with a half a sandwich or twinkey at lunch time. Think of the owner of a small store in South Chicago paying tribute to the neighborhood hoodlum for protection of his store so nobody will put a rock through the front window. In either case that protection comes with a price—the loss of lunch or increased costs to the bottom line of the business.

We must realize that all societies no matter how moral and sound the institutional cultures may be, will always have to fight corruption. Corruptions can either be legal corruptions or illegal corruptions. Running a stop sign is a crime but is not a corruption, but flirting with the cop trying to get out of the ticket is corrupt. Corruptions always require an agent in the middle of a two-way transaction. In the case of the traffic stop the transaction between the driver of the car, who makes out a check to city government, may try to leverage the policeman into not giving a ticket—the third party. Corrupt acts are a violation of the VII Commandment—”Though shalt not steal” and are discussed in The Catholic Catechism in the context of “The Universal Destination and The Private Ownership of Goods”. All parties in a corrupt act are participants in the corruption—though on the face of it buying protection for one’s business in a tough community seems less corrupt than exacting such tribute—but it is not because the whole community suffers.

No good can come to a neighborhood, a society or a country where corruption is allowed to grow, there are three ways to deal with corruption: 1. Fight it. This is the morally correct choice but it carries great personal and economic risk—in the short term. The second is to participate in the corruption itself—the choice most followed. Think of our major corporations in the USA being shaken down by the likes of BLM and ANTFA. A practice made popular by civil rights leaders like Jesse Jackson a generation earlier. Think of large campaign contributions from companies like Nike so that our government will turn a blind’s eye to the human rights atrocities in countries like China. Who is corrupt in this type of transaction—the politician and the Chinese government? The third alternative is to immigrate—move out of one’s own country—this is exactly what we are seeing on our southern border today—millions of people fleeing from corrupt governments that can neither secure their families physical or economic futures.

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Corruption has become so commonplace in commerce and government that the people in charge look at it as a way of doing business—just like the owner of the small shop in South Chicago.

The move toward centralized totalitarian governance, and command economies only increases the opportunities for corruption. That is why we are seeing decreased money flows and opportunities—economic and vocational, being afforded to those living in our middle class. With corruptions money flows to the most corrupt and many times the most corrupt are those in power. And that is exactly why so many politicians covet power—because they see political power as a way to make fortunes. Mercantilism—an economic system where the state controls the economy requires a positive balance of trade—exports greater than imports. This system incentivizes collusion between state and business—the state is the agent in the financial transaction. This costs both parties in the transaction—producers and consumers, while filling the pockets of the elite. Capitalism was the answer to mercantilism and is where private businesses and manufacturers create profits for themselves, their employees and investors. The economic frictions of government interference are minimized when compared to other economic systems like socialism.

We are moving away from capitalism and liberty and toward the terrible first cousin of mercantilism—Fascism—think Mussolini’s Italy or Hitler or Stalin—all Fascist centralized governing and economic systems with the very few at the top reaping the benefit of the labor of those beneath them.

So when you see government colluding with private business either locally with Urban Renewal Projects, or State Government becoming more and more dependent on Federal Subsidies like Medicaid or Federal Education Grants or private businesses like insurance companies and large hospital systems using accounting and coding techniques like DRG up coding or Covid-19 “Co-coding” and their legions of lawyers and accountants to extract every bit of money from patients and customers and government agencies(always this money comes from taxpayers) for their services think —corruption. Maybe these activities are legal—who knows nobody wants to find out for sure, but they are corrupt and everyday people are being hurt.

If I were an omnipotent overseer of government and business the 1st thing I would do would be to ask for all government agencies involved in transfer transactions over $100 million be required to undergo an independent outside audit by a major accounting firm. I would then require any business that is the recipient of over $100 million dollars of transfer funds from the State or the Feds—or both to undergo a similar audit.

I can hear all our corporate and political leaders laughing and scoffing at such a suggestion. Can’t you? Are they corrupt or just complicit? What’s the difference? Now would be a great time for such an audit as the state coffers are filled to the brim and many of our large businesses have been the recipient of large Federal onetime (once in a lifetime I hope) Grants, loans and subsidies.

As a people we have a right to know the answer to how the fruits of our labor are being used. If you aren’t corrupt—prove it. Am I still allowed to ask such questions?

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