The Banal Stupidity of Small-Time Political Corruption

His corruption wasn’t small-time but I needed a stereotype for the international audience

When corruption is imagined, it is imagined as something romantic and sophisticated. Having worked in local politics, the most common form of corruption is anything but. It isn’t Richard Nixon or Frank Underwood or ties to the mafia. In short, corruption in local politics is much dumber and, more or less, in the open. They run for office to get local fame to advertise whatever business is their day job to get more money. Local politics doesn’t pay well outside of the executive and bureaucratic branches and most politicians are legislative and the people in it will make more money if they neglect policy duties and focus on their 9-5 profession.

The less public service they do, the more time they have to do things that make them money, so their only aim in politics is doing enough or pretending to do enough to keep getting elected to what is effectively a billboard for their real eststate company or law firm. Insofar as local politicians lie, it is along these lines. They lie about doing things that wouldn’t make them money if they spent any time doing them. A commmon populist demand is that politicians should have their salaries cut and should make money in their day jobs. That is how local politics works and, again, that system is terrible since it is a major factor in them doing almost nothing.

Of course, the only people who can afford to run are usually people with money and/or time because campaigns are expensive and time consuming. That means rich people. There are a few exceptions to this and those exceptions are borne of being blessed with many social connections usually begotten from religion or being involved in Greek Life at one’s college. So, politics becomes dominated by shameless business people, charasmatic preachers, and charming jocks all of whom are there to make money in their private sector profession.

Becoming good at business or popular at one’s fraternity has a negative correlation with ethics, honesty, and character. Fraternities almost all instill in their members preying on the weak and rewarding domination. Hazing is literally humiliating and causing suffering to people on the basis of their lower status for the purposes of schadenfreude. Literally, I can’t think of worse values to instill in young men. It’s worse than Ayn Rand and that’s saying a lot. A person who sees a weaker person and sees prey for schadenfreude belongs nowhere near politics, business, or the homo sapiens species. Growing up, the most supportive people of hazing tended to be conservatives (I am a Charlestonian and the Citidel is infamous for it) and I was perplexed by how the Christian values they wished to purvey comported with hazing. Who would Jesus sadistically humiliate for fun?

Local politics has a selection bias for sociopaths and getting nothing done. To fix it, there needs to be a selection bias for the opposite. There need to be networking and funding platofrms available to more honest and moral people. Not people with a massive conflict of interest or who had the values of preying on the weak forged into their psychologies. There are many ways of doing it and we need to start because many of our issues require local solutions from housing to education to transportation. Compassionate and honest people need to be selected for by the system.

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