Corruption at home

At a time when Americans are anxious that corruption in Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Pakistan, or Russia, or any other distant place makes dealing with them difficult, it is painful to see spectacular corruption close to home.  That is why it is so distressing that a Washington DC councilman, the son of a councilman no less, Harry Thomas Jr., admitted to embezzling $353,000 in public funds meant for youth functions to finance a high life of fancy cars and expensive vacations.

When we preach ‘good government’ or ‘the American way’ to others, we need to be aware of our own faults and flaws.  Americans commit corruption too; we are human in that respect.  The best thing about our system is the commitment of law enforcement — police, prosecutors, courts — to enforce the law even against those who hold important offices.  That is what makes our system work.

What makes a country corrupt is not whether corruption occurs; it is whether those in power are truly immune and can get away with it.  Where they can be held accountable, corruption becomes like any other crime.  It is something we cannot eliminate, human nature being what it is.  But we can keep it under control and prevent it from ruining the lives of those who live honestly.


About jackgoldstone

Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University
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