Like a plague, corruption permeates the world’s entire social order. Rare are those countries that can boast they do not suffer this evil – which threatens to destroy the whole system – and are immune to the efforts of the ruling class to bend the enforcement of current laws to their own ends.
Juan Diego García
Bending the law, that is, to ensure their total impunity or at least impunity from some of the law’s consequences: purely nominal prison sentences, home detention, timely escape to some penal haven (United States, for example), no obligation to return the proceeds of theft and, more commonly, short prison sentences after which the guilty party is guaranteed a retirement with all the comforts somewhere in the Caribbean.
Corruption is probably the most striking factor when it comes to explaining the enormous loss of legitimacy regarding the so-called modern capitalist democracies which are also intensely weakened by the gradual decline of the various forms of the Welfare State which have afforded capitalism so much stability over the last half century.
Of course, corruption is not the only factor affecting the system’s legitimacy, but it is one of the most prominent.
That politicians in these advanced democracies stress their honesty as if it were an exceptional virtue says much about it, since it is supposed that those who exercise a public function (starting with levying taxes from the public) are necessarily honest people; that this quality is cited as if it were exceptional merely confirms that the rot is widespread among the so-called “political classes”, in which, increasingly, the public has little or no trust at all.
If a politician claims, in his favour, that he is honest, something very serious is going on in this profession.
On the poor fringes of the global establishment, corruption has always been present although in recent decades the phenomenon has become widespread and deep rooted and major scandals blight almost every country.
Even countries’ democratic and progressive processes are afflicted by this evil, partly because of the negligence of their own governments in combating it, but above all because they inherit the burden as the unfortunate legacies of their pasts which are so difficult to overcome.
Institutional corruption is accompanied, of course, by another kind of corruption which is of a similar or larger scale: the corrupt practices of capitalists (large and small) who cheat by evading taxes, by infringing labour laws to illegally increase their profits (hours worked but not paid, etc.), by degrading the quality and decreasing the quantity of products but maintaining prices, and through an endless number of similar practices that are in fact clearly defrauding the consumer, such as so-called planned obsolescence.
All this goes beyond the laws of the rich classes even and its main purpose is to increase profits. This is moreover because forms of appropriation that infringe laws become widespread owing to capital’s legal expropriation of labour (capital gain).
One of the factors that most influence the spread of the various forms of corruption is, undoubtedly, the prevailing neoliberal ideology throughout the world.
The new principle that emphasises the advantages of (market) freedom over state controls as being the supposed source of general happiness is communicated on all levels: in the education system, through the media and in all communal establishments – in churches, clubs, associations and other forms of civic activity.
The fiercest and most selfish individualism is shamelessly promoted and the law of the jungle, of ‘anything goes’ and of valuing the cleverest and most able is justified with the result that the business of living together is turned into* a kind of grim struggle with the strongest triumphing and the weakest being oppressed and humiliated.
The conventional principles of a simple life of working hard and saving andof cultivating social and communal responsibility is supplanted by the most acute hedonism and indifference to communal obligations.
It is no longer a matter of moulding citizens; it is enough to produce consumers which is indeed the most appropriate thing to do when it comes to fully implementing the laws of the market, one of the central objectives of neoliberal principles.
It is not surprising then in this context of everyone being pitted against each other, in this so-called “social Darwinism” which ensures the survival of the strongest and most able, that that popular saying which expresses the phenomenon so well is gaining significance: “go make money my son; make it honestly. But if you can’t… make it anyway. ”
If politicians’, officials’, capitalists’ and even ordinary citizens’ values of honesty are undervalued and instead the whole argument centres around pondering one’s ability to succeed at all costs, it is no wonder then that the temptation to test the limits of the law is judged increasingly as a sign of practical intelligence, as a test of superiority when it comes to surviving in such a turbulent world where the future is so unclear.
With this in mind, people have good reason to suggest, at least when it comes to the widespread corruption of governments, parliaments and other state institutions wielding power, that corruption is a kind of pay-off that big (national and international) capital makes to politicians and high ranking officials for having become mere executors and administrators of the interests of those who really make the important decisions: financial capital, the big corporations, the so-called ‘international financial entities’ (IMF, WB, OECD, WTO, etc.), and other similar institutions that need this kind of uncontrolled setting in which corruption prospers in all its forms.
(Translated by Nigel Conibear – Diptrans IoLET MCIL – firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay