Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Corruption in Politics is rare

I'm tired of hearing people talk so much about corruption in politics when it is really very rare. Few endeavors are held to as close a level of scrutiny as politics, and although there are many very minor abuses throughout the system, major corruption is very rare.

We want to find individuals at fault when it is our seriously flawed money-driven-political-marketing-pork-barrelling political nightmare that is to blame.

The McCain non-scandal is a great example of how a personally virtuous person, acting reasonably, will still be viewed as engaging in questionable activity. Yet even as his personal actions appear to have been perfectly legal and reasonable, they reflect the deeper problems with the system where a cute young lobbyist is a lot more likely to get the ear of a Senator than a dedicated balding gadfly.

Contrary to what most people think there is almost NO voting in direct exchange for political contributions. However contributions play a huge role in the process and certainly distort it, but much earlier on. How? Only people who have the support of a broad section of special interest groups that can fund them have much of a chance at political success. Lobbies and money come in to play before the election, when candidates are picked for their views. Powerful lobbies do not change votes with campaign contributions, rather they change the *candidates* into those more likely to vote for them. It's more subtle than buying votes and perfectly legal, but reflects the key problem with the system which is NOT personal corruptibility, rather it is marketing and finance driven politics.

What is the solution? Public funding hardly seems the answer, though better forms of free public information may be helpful. The internet is already helping to level the playing field such that information can be disseminated at a fraction of the cost of other media.

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