Tuesday, June 26, 2007
You may have heard on the news that there was a vote of no-confidence in the president of Romania recently, who refused to resign, thus forcing a referendum. In the end the president won.
The issue was corruption. The president said that the prime-minister was corrupt. The prime-minister said that the president was corrupt. Both claimed that the other was in the pay of some large interest group, thus compromising their integrity as elected representatives.
The European Union has expressed disquiet that a member country is so entangled in corruption. A European anti-corruption minister has been appointed to look into the issue.
When I asked my Romanian friends about this they looked embarrassed and answered with a shrug. “It’s true,” they said. “What can you do?”
And it is true. Romania is corrupt. No one gets anything done in this country without slipping back-handers to the appropriate official. If you are caught speeding you don’t pay a fine, you pay the policeman who caught you, otherwise you will find yourself entangled in bureaucracy for months.
When you want medical help you bribe the doctor. When you want legal help you bribe the lawyer. If your pet is ill you bribe the vet.
You even bribe God. In front of the altar of every church, in front of every icon, there is a collection box. No prayer is considered efficacious without the addition of an appropriate amount of cash. The larger the request, the more money is required.
What the allegations and counter-allegations make clear is that corruption in Romania goes to the highest level of government.
So what’s new? The joke here is that anyone in the West considers they have the right to complain about corruption.
The EU is corrupt. Britain is corrupt. The USA is corrupt. The difference is that in these countries the corruption is so endemic, so established, so institutionalised, that no one recognises it as corruption anymore.
So the Romanian president may be receiving back-handers from some interest-group or another. The American president, on the other hand, is the direct representative of an interest-group. He owes his position of power entirely to the manoeuvrings of his family and to the business interests they represent.
I think it is clear by now that our own British prime-minister is also indirectly in their pay. It’s true that he doesn’t receive back-handers, but you can be certain that he will be well-rewarded for his efforts once he is out of office.
He lied to parliament to institute a war against a third-world nation to steal its oil. He sold peerages. He has presided over the whole-scale destruction of parliamentary democracy and its replacement with unelected advisors in the service of special interests.
It should be a rule that no one profits from public office. If a person is substantially better off after leaving office than he was before, then that is surely evidence of corruption.
Which would make every prime-minister in history measurably corrupt.
At least the Romanians don’t pretend.