When most people think of tyranny, and totalitarian government, they think of rigid rules and harshly enforced laws. But what tyranny and big government really involves in the majority of cases is a lot of politically-connected law breakers. Regulations provide opportunities for bribery or kickbacks in many different ways. Laws can be selectively enforced so that some criminals get protection and provide an unofficial income stream to the ones responsible for enforcing the law. In a democracy, criminals can get the vote out in neighborhoods and then expect favors in return from the winning candidate.
People often act like crime is the opposite of government. But the business model for organized crime is not what you see in the movies. Yes they will kill or threaten to kill people. But organized crime is mainly distinctive in that it operates by bribery of public officials. It depends on government to exist.
In my opinion this relationship between criminality and politics is often missed by the media. They downplay it even when it is staring us in the face. Even when the corruption and criminality of a politician is revealed, it is almost always treated as a special anomaly. How many anomalies can happen in history before they can be recognized as the norm?
That is why I really like the headline of a recent post on Mish’s Global Economic Trends Analysis blog: “Congratulations to Illinois: Most Government Bodies, Most Convicted Governors, Lowest Credit Rating.”
Just like the headline says:
- “Illinois is at the top of the list in imprisoned governors.”
- “On January 25, 2013 the Chicago Tribune reported Illinois credit rating sinks to worst in nation.”
- “Illinois has the most units of local government of any state in the country.”
Four out of the last seven governors has been convicted and imprisoned. Do you think every guilty governor has been caught? Common sense would say that, if no one could get away with criminal activity, then politicians would stop.
The cumulative weight of all those local governments are both economically damaging in their own right as regulatory bodies and as consumers of taxes, and are often opportunities for graft and corruption.
The result is that Illinois is an economic basket case. From the Chicago Tribune:
Illinois fell to the bottom of all 50 states in the rankings of a major credit ratings agency Friday following the failure of Gov. Pat Quinn and lawmakers to fix the state’s hemorrhaging pension system during this month’s lame-duck session.
Standard & Poor’s Ratings Service downgraded Illinois in what is the latest fallout over the $96.8 billion debt to five state pension systems. The New York rating firm’s ranking signaled taxpayers may pay tens of millions of dollars more in interest when the state borrows money for roads and other projects.
The problem, of course, is that individuals profit greatly while the harm on each individual resident of Illinois goes up slightly. It is always too tempting to an official to grasp a bit more. The cumulative effect degrades the state.