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 Corruption2011-11-19 22:50
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I think it is the first and most important target and focal point for a public uprising against the 1%, The Man, the Ruling Class, or whatever we call the predatory elite that somehow has ended up owning most of everything and violently policing their property. Corruption. That's largely how they got there and how they stay in control. It isn't democracy, it isn't business success in a free market. It isn't the will of The People that got them there, it is them successfully subverting the public interest by bribing people in key positions with money and power, and installing their people and their institutions and their laws in place of what would have best served most of us. All oriented towards privatizing profits into the hands of those few people, protected by government armies and police forces, and leaving everybody else stuck with the bill for it, including the real costs for the damage caused.

Corruption: The use of a public position of power for private gain and counter to common public interests.

That's my definition. Most official definitions are somewhat fuzzy. Most talk about corruption focuses on the particular act of somebody paying off a government official to give them special consideration. But it really doesn't matter whether money is involved. And it doesn't matter who's private gain we're talking about. The money flow is often hard to prove, and it is likely to be shifted in time in relation to the favors it pays for. A Treasury Secretary might have worked for a particular investment bank in the past, or he will do so after he resigns. Makes no difference. It is a lot more expedient to look at what people do, rather than starting backwards with how they might have been rewarded for doing it. The motive in a crime is maybe interesting, but it is more important to recognize the crime, and secondly to catch the criminal and get them out of the way. And in case of corruption, it is usually glaringly obvious to anybody who even pays half attention.

If a bunch of politicians are campaigning to pass a "piracy" law that increases the income stream of large media conglomerates, despite their failing business model, and that law is against the interests of 99.99% of the population, subjecting them to huge arbitrary fines and being kicked off of the Internet, there's no great reason to have to find the smoking gun where money changed hands, even though that's quite easily found in the form of large campaign donations from those companies to those particular politicians. But the mere fact that they, while being trusted to act as our government, will work on enacting such laws is a clear sign of corruption. It should be reason enough for a prison sentence, even if their specific payoff was never located.

It doesn't matter what branch of government they're in, or whether we even are talking government. The point is that somebody who's trusted to act in the common interest of the people they serve deliberately acts very counter to that interest, in order to serve particular private interests.

A police force that terrorizes certain types of people in certain places and looks the other way when other people do similar things in other places, we're obviously talking about some kind of corruption. The cops on the street, beating people up, it usually isn't them who came up with the plan, but a bit further up the line you'll quickly find somebody who's playing special interests. And who belongs on the other side of prison bars.

It isn't just the people who are bought off that are culpable. If somebody pays an assassin to kill somebody, sure, that assassin will be guilty of murder. But the more important people to catch are the ones that paid for it. Strangely, in some countries it isn't even illegal to pay off government officials. The United States comes to mind, where most politicians receive large contributions from corporations, while being continuously lobbied in order to do what they want. Presidential candidates receive hundreds of millions in the same way. Congress members are not subject to insider trading laws. A more sane system would make them instantly be disqualified for receiving pay-offs or from profiting privately from the inside knowledge they're exposed to. As to the corporations, being closed down when found to be paying politicians would be a perfectly reasonable consequence. Yes, the whole company, whatever its size.

In case it isn't clear, I'm not talking about some isolated case of the Mafia paying off local cops. I'm talking about something that all but a handful of members of U.S. Congress are guilty of, and which most Fortune 500 companies are guilty of. And it isn't just an American thing. I live in France. The current government has enacted a horrendous "three-strikes" copyright law, HADOPI, which is in the interest of nobody in France, other than a few lawyers and media company executives. The corruption obviously reaches high, as President Sarkozy personally championed that law. I don't know what his payoff is, but shame on him for having sold out.

A big obstacle in dealing with all this in the normal ways available to us is that the system has already been rigged so that most of it is perfectly "legal". Corporate personhood is legal. Lobbying is legal. Campaign contributions are legal. It is perfectly normal that banking executives responsible for huge frauds in the financial system go straight on to government positions where they draft the regulations, or the lack of same, for their industry. Goldman Sachs employees are now the heads of state in two European countries, Italy and Greece. It is usually pharmaceutical companies that write the laws that would regulate their industry, particularly on Federal, EU and international levels. Which strangely turns out to be mainly in their own interest, outlawing any competition from smaller players, and completely counter to what most people would need or want. It is all legal. But it is corruption, nevertheless.

So, what to do? Call it when you see it. That it is "legal" shouldn't stop you. So, don't buy into the complexity of why it is legal, or why nobody can prove anything. Look at the actions taken and the results. If the police is beating up and shooting unarmed peaceful Occupy protesters, but heavily armed and angry Tea Party groups can hold rallies without there ever being any police in sight, then clearly there's corruption in the police force. You don't have to know how come, or who paid for it. Just locate who is in charge, who gave the order, and the corruption is surely close by or further up.

There are other things very, very wrong in society, like the foundation of the whole interest-bearing debt-as-money system. Or multi-national corporate personhood. But the key leverage point that most people can understand is corruption. Get commercial interests as far away from government as possible. Don't let them get away with it. People should be going to jail. Presidents, ministers, CEOs, bankers, police chiefs, judges. Unfortunately, these are the very same people we have entrusted to be responsible for such things, so that makes it tricky. The weapons on our side is open communication, and the fact that there are many, many more of us. But it is necessary to stay focused, to not flinch, to not be dispersed and confused. A big part of the system that governs our society is corrupt. But not all of it. Most people are good people who can recognize the truth when they see it, if they can stand still for long enough.

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