Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Corruption vs. Wealth

It's passe, and even risible, to claim that America is the hope of the world. That idea died with Reagan, and his 'shining city on a hill'. Even Superman recently questioned the 'American Way' he once fought for (as his old TV show claimed).

It's not just from the left that one hears this relentless drumbeat, either. Jim Rogers, a staggeringly wealthy (by most standards) investor, uprooted his family from America, where he made his reputation and fortune, to China. China, he has often said, is the future.

At right is a chart from a very insightful website indicating the state of the world's corruption. What stands out to me is that the poorest countries are the most corrupt, with Africa the clear 'winner'.

From the site: 'Petty bribery increased the most in Chile, Colombia, Kenya, FYR Macedonia, Nigeria, Poland, Russia, Senegal and Thailand. And bribery was most often an activity of the poor and the young.'

Furthermore, the most corruption - hands-down - stemmed from representatives of political parties. As was once observed by The Sopranos - 'these guys make us look like amateurs'.

Also note that this chart holds that Asia has over twice the incidence of corruption as the US.

What does this mean? To me it means that wealth has an inverse ratio to moral (however you choose to define that) corruption. The more dishonest a society is, the poorer it will be.

We get quite an earful about the Bernie Madoffs of this world. But such headlines don't offer a clear indication of where a society is headed, because people like that have always existed. What matters is the integrity of a society, and what it truly believes and honors - not what it pays mere lip service to.

Our true societal values are masked with a flimsy cloak of political correctness. It's wrong to hate (at least openly) Jews or 'minority' races. But it is permissible, and even encouraged, to hate designated strawmen. Sarah Palin, for example, is someone for whom various forms of hatred are often expressed. It is likewise permissible, and encouraged, to hate those who do not conform to whatever is currently 'politically correct'.

In the end, the most decent, just and honorable societies will triumph. If that is China, so be it, but it is far from proven that a still-totalitarian state can lead billions to a higher moral level. If it's the USA, we have some soul-searching (and a lot of re-inventing) to do.

If it's some other nation that's destined to rise up and become 'the shining city' that leads the world, there are an awful lot of people right now who are wondering where on Earth that might be.


  1. Wealth, at ALL levels of society, occurs when property rights are secure...ie, when the rule of law is honored.

    Otherwise, wealth only occurs where the powerful allow: hardly a recipe for liberty.

  2. A system of mature law is important. Much as we've come to hold the law in contempt for the widespread and often-flagrant abuses we see, the alternative of no, weak, or bad laws is likewise untenable.