Whether your daily routine starts off by going to get the newspaper, consulting with online news sources or both to compliment your coffee, there are inevitably two themes which leap off the pages of whatever you read – the loss of confidence by the people in their elected and appointed governmental officials and institutions and perhaps the cause of that lost confidence – “corruption”.
Whether you begin with international, national, state or local news the pervasiveness around the globe of corruption in various forms is apparent and cuts across all forms and levels of government. It is the subject of extensive coverage in the media regardless of the ownership and control of that media and even at times envelops the media outlets themselves. For example, the Rupert Murdoch owned media empire.
In India, the Prime Minister attempts to persuade Anna Hazare, “the leader of a nationwide uprising against corruption” to end her hunger strike by proposing “stronger legislation against graft.” Even in authoritarian China, the ruling Chinese Communist Party, while celebrating its 90th anniversary at a time (this summer) boasting 80 million members –
making it the largest political party in the world, governing the world’s second largest economy acknowledges officially that, “the party has really serious corruption problems right now.” This has caused one Chinese communist party official, Chen Baosheng, Vice President of the Central Party School and a disciplinary authority to describe what he characterizes as “a deterioration of beliefs” and to proscribe as a cure that “we should strengthen the teaching of morality.” This would hopefully stem the tide of corruption which has led to the punishment of 146,517 communist party members for “corruption” last year. These included several sensational cases where party officials were alleged to have killed their mistresses to silence them as well as embezzled large scale kickbacks and misappropriated government expenses for their personal use.
Across the globe in the western hemisphere in Central and South America, the President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff whom, The Economist, a British news magazine reports, “arrived in the presidential palace with a reputation as a no-nonsense manager” has found herself “sucked into the political swamp that is Brasilia”. “She has reacted firmly and correctly to corruption scandals. Her reward has been signs of mutiny and disillusionment in her ramshackle political coalition whose smaller members are interested only in jobs and money for personal gain or party financing.”
Similar issues are noticeable in Argentina headed by President Christina Fernandez and in the upcoming election in our neighbor to the south, Mexico, where another woman, Josefina Vazquez Mota may emerge as the strongest candidate of the ruling National Action Party (PAN) based on her credentials as the “Social Development Minister who cleared out incompetent officials” under former President Vincente Fox.
Why all of these countries are turning to women to fight corruption will not be the subject of this column, but perhaps should be explored later, when the opportunity presents itself. It is at the moment certainly worthy of at least this preliminary notice. It is a trend however that this writer is sure will be encouraged within the campaigns of the two female Republican women who are most heavily into the 2012 presidential campaign, Michelle Bachman (R. Minnesota), who is an announced candidate and former Republican Vice Presidential candidate and Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, who continues to tease her followers with speeches and appearances designed to keep their interest in her as a prospective presidential candidate besides making her a lot of money and getting her the attention without accountability that she so obviously seeks and enjoys.
Both Representative Bachman and Governor Palin have incorporated the latest fashionable rhetorical shot at corruption into their standard speeches more than any of the other candidates. They have done so by utilizing the phrase “crony capitalism” repeatedly mostly with reference to the alleged practices of the front runner for the Republican nomination Governor Rick Perry of Texas (Bachman), but also to pejoratively label government involvement in the economy generally (Palin). This phrase “crony capitalism” has not yet been defined by either of these candidates. I will therefore suggest that Katie Couric be recalled to ask both of them what it means and that neither candidate be permitted to use the phrase again until she has responded to Couric’s inquiry with an answer that is coherent and consistent with well settled principles of law and economics.
Whether Representative Bachman or Governor Palin can define “crony capitalism” or not, this column in the future will explore what it means to our democracy and to the beneficiaries of the public and private partnerships in our mixed economy that have thrived without objection from either political party until recently.