IPFS Dave Gallagher

Necessary Evil

More About: Politics: General Activism

Corruption in congress! … let’s all pretend to be surprised.

It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native criminal class except Congress. – Mark Twain

Well the news that Jack Abramoff will be singing like a canary has generated massive speculation as to the breadth of this latest instance of political corruption. Talk has quickly turned to campaign finance reform, returning control to the Democrats by voting Republicans out and revived talk of term limits. But aren’t these just band-aids applied to a massive hemoraege? Hasn’t the internal bleeding worsened with the growth of government?

Rep Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said today "We simply have too much power...We Republicans have abused that power badly over the past several years."

Another congressman, Ron Paul (R-TX) quoted James Madison in his weekly Texas Straignt Talk column: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.

Paul then went on to say:

Scandals are a Symptom, Not a Cause …

The Washington political scandals dominating the news in recent weeks may be disheartening, but they cannot be considered surprising. We live in a time when the U.S. government is the largest and most powerful state in the history of the world. Today's federal government consists of fifteen huge departments, hundreds of agencies, thousands of programs, and millions of employees. It spends 2.4 trillion dollars in a single year. The possibilities for corruption in such an immense and unaccountable institution are endless.

Americans understandably expect ethical conduct from their elected officials in Washington. But the whole system is so out of control that it's simply unrealistic to place faith in each and every government official in a position to sell influence. The larger the federal government becomes, the more it controls who wins and who loses in our society. The temptation for lobbyists to buy votes-- and the temptation for politicians to sell them-- is enormous. Indicting one crop of politicians and bringing in another is only a temporary solution. The only effective way to address corruption is to change the system itself, by radically downsizing the power of the federal government in the first place. Take away the politicians' power and you take away the very currency of corruption.

We need to get money out of government. Only then will money not be important in politics. It's time to reconsider exactly what we want the federal government to be in our society. So long as it remains the largest and most powerful institution in the nation, it will remain endlessly susceptible to corruption.

Many people will want to clean house in congress which is fine with me. To view this as a Republican problem however misses the point. Ron Paul has it right. This latest scandal is a result of allowing our government to grow beyond it’s constitutionally limited scope thereby undermining the rule of law. This is what happens when government is too big, too powerful and in control of too much of our money.

There is another lesson here. If only by passive acceptance, even the more principled congressmen have contributed to the accumulation of power by one party at any cost. To think that it is just a matter of getting the right politicians in office is fantasy.

The “ends justifies the means” mentality, which accepts corruption as “business as usual”, runs throughout our government. It is not limited to a single party. This is a problem of government. To expect that government can cure itself is to remain in denial of the real problem.