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Examining the Soil

Recently have been wondering about a standard assumption that I (and others) have held for a long time - that most sufficiently high politicians are corrupt. Temporarily dodging the (interesting) question of how to define political corruption, how do we know/why do we assume that they are? One suggestion is that "the sad state of the nation" is to blame, with various examples of things that are done very badly, combined with the occasional revelation of people who are caught doing things that are definitely marks of corruption and frequent films suggesting near-universal corruption (wag the dog, bullworth, etc).. but how many of us are actually in a position to know these things with reasonable certainty? How mmany should we assume? Do we actually need to tread into the murky waters of defining corruption to answer these questions? We're right to demand the highest ethical standards of our politicians, but when we hold them up to those standards, I think we need to do hold ourselves to similarly high standards for that evaluation. That people and political figures disagree on political matters is enough to explain at least partly that from any given political perspective, things are suboptimal.

Off-the-cuff analyses are starting to look a bit childish, as is the coolness of inexhaustible cyncisism.


I think corruption should be seen as a continous variable and not as a binary. Taking a suitcase full of cash in return for a construction contract is corrupt. Is it corrupt if a politician agrees to meet regularly while in office with a donor who gives millions in campaign contributions?
I don't actually know if continuity is desirable, although I agree with you that it's complex. Perhaps as a set of staged progressions towards less corruption, we might consider the latter kosher by a certain standard but corrupt by later ones which we might desire to progress towards. In the end, I would love it if we could reach a point where campaigns get no financial contributions but candidacy doesn't really take money.. until then, we should probably be willing to accept a certain amount of maneuvering in the system as it is while trying to push the bar higher when and where we can find ways to do so.