Friday, September 27, 2013

Detroit: Product of Liberalism or Just Bad People?

There is a front page story in the New York Times about how it is now coming out that one of the reasons Detroit is bankrupt is because the pension trustees just decided to give money away. For years they would just hand out extra money from the pension fund, above and beyond what contracts called for, to both retirees and active workers. When they started running out of money, they borrowed, which worked for a little while, until it...drum roll...didn't.

You can read it here.

What's really interesting is the comment section. Obviously, lots of liberals read the NYT, and since there hasn't been a Republican seen near Detroit for about half a century, it's fascinating to see their contorted rationalizations. The main one seems to be, "This isn't a story about the failure of liberalism, it's simply about some corrupt people, and corrupt people come in all political flavors."

The second part I'll agree with. My own state senator here in New York, a Republican, was sent to prison for taking bribes. But having said that, the rationale fails to acknowledge that corruption happens when it has certain preconditions, and it is liberals who are the relentless cheerleaders for these preconditions.

It is statism, in a nutshell. Big, unwieldy, states are like a petri dish for corruption. The bigger the government, the bigger the corruption. This is primarily the result of the growth of the "administrative state," which has become government's fourth branch. Its workers are almost completely unaccountable, and they have ever-growing power that can be monetized. For many, the temptation is too great, and worse, it becomes part of the accepted culture.

Look at Lois Lerner, the undeniably corrupt IRS honcho. She got a long, paid, vacation, and now a lucrative retirement (although she was corrupt for ideological reasons, not monetary).

Oftentimes, corruption happens because it feeds the state. Look at the railroad workers in New York, who for years would routinely claim disability just before retirement to enhance a lifetime of benefits. The union, the regulators, and the politicians all looked the other way because the donations were flowing.

People are people, and a certain percentage are of flawed character. Such bad actors seek out situations that can be exploited for their benefit, and what better than a growing government with ever more authority over its own people? Checks and balances are vanishing.

It's even worse in places with one-party rule, like Detroit, Chicago, and New Orleans. In such places, politicians are easily corrupted as well as bureaucrats. Normally, politicians can be held accountable by voters, but when they're not, their position becomes a sinecure, and the inevitable follows.

You can see the phenomenon elsewhere in the world, too. Places like the Philippines and Greece are highly corrupt because their governments are very large. Cuba is 100% corrupt because the state controls everything. There's hardly any corruption in Singapore or Hong Kong, though. Simply not a lot of opportunity.

Large states and corruption go hand in hand. Between liberals and conservatives, I know of only one ideology that embraces an ever-growing public sector.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Remember the Kurds?

The largest chemical attack in history on a civilian population was not in Syria, but in Iraq, where Saddam Hussein slaughtered thousands of ethnic Kurds for not being supportive of the regime. Thousands more died later of complications, disease, and birth defects.

Barack Obama was a consistent opponent of the war in Iraq, but now he wants war with Syria. What's the difference, exactly? Is it because Bush was president, so he reflexively had to oppose everything he did? Or is it because Democrats, peaceniks when out of power, are disturbingly comfortable with projecting military power when they're in charge? The operating principle just seems to be that we have no national interest, and therefore we must be acting out of the goodness of our hearts.