Politics, Markets and Morality: The Corrupt Crap Game
Being on holiday, I've had the chance to debate few nights ago with some academic researchers the 2009 Reith Lectures, and the challenges that arise when politics is observed through the lenses of Markets and Morality (e.g. the MPs' expenses scandal and 'Politicians for hire')
Then I came across this farewell note of Clare Short MP (Birmingham, Ladywood) and I've asked myself: After 27 years of services, if tomorrow she starts a new career as a lecturer in political sciences, what would she teach to students who aspire one day to take the Oath of Allegiance? Would Clare teach them the theories on democracy, ethics and how the parliament is supposed to operate as described in the textbooks, or would she teach them the true rules of the game in the political arena?
And today, while doing some researches on Corporate Social Responsibilities, I've found at the library the book Censored 2006. It includes an article where Michael Ruppert responds to John Massen's request, who questioned the reasons why the Democrats did not support the impeachment of the Bush regime for complicity in permitting the 9/11 attack to occur, despite having all the evidences. Michael Ruppert wrote:
"The flaw in your work is not in the legal foundation or in the way the evidence is presented, [but] in your basic assumption that the system functions and operates as you think it should or the way it is described in textbooks."
"The entire system is corrupt. Those who participate in it rationalize-in order to protect their seat at a crap table that when one player gets out of line the primary objective is to protect the crap game.... To impeach Bush et al on the grounds you have delineated would open a can of worms that would call into question the legitimacy of the entire government. That will never be permitted.
"In the case of the Clinton impeachment, while there were perhaps ten (or more) offenses upon which that president could have been removed and jailed, none of them were ever pursued. Why? Because they involved the simultaneous exposure of Republican corruption and/or demonstrated that the entire government was complicit in one degree or another. So what did they go after Clinton on? Extramarital sex and lying about it. It was the only charge available that did not bring down the whole system.
"There is no legal argument you can make that will make a broken system function the way that you want it to function." (To read the full article, follow this link)
Only the French were willing to shakeup the whole system in 1789. They are still trying today with the crisis, but most governments are not willing to go as far as them.
If the public has been shocked by the main revelation made in the documentary 'Politicians for hire', I personally do not think it was the case for most economists, CSR/Political scientists, politicians or businessmen. The only news for them was the price of the service. Now all companies that are serious about lobbying know the market price to use for their forecasts.
Why are people surprised to hear that their MPs, or ex-MPs, lobby for the benefits of private companies? Has it never occurred to them that most policymakers have no knowledge about the industries they regulate?
Will you hire a plumber to fix your electricity problems? No. Same thing here. For instance, a policymaker who graduated in History and now regulates the construction industry has obviously no knowledge about how a house is built. So s/he will listen attentively to property developers' recommendations, who naturally will give advice that serve their interests first. Other groups, such as Friend of the Earth, will try to have their voice heard too. But since Friend of the Earth does not create jobs, in general NGOs have less influence than businessmen in politics.
And you do not need a PhD in psychology, or be an expert in the art of influence, to know that the more you spend time with a group of people, the more you start thinking like the group. Public Affairs specialists call this process "educating the policymaker". Academics call it "Regulatory Capture".
The Revolving door has always been an issue in politics. All voters disapprove it and find it immoral to see a public official sells his/her Oath and duty of social responsibilities for private gains. Unfortunately, as argued by Milton Friedman , morality and social responsibilities are individual matters not social matters.
Nowadays, the morality of an individual is no more influenced by the community s/he lives in and where people used to know each other, but by the pressure of our corporate-peers and work colleagues who influence all of us to play a crap game. A corrupt crap game, according to Michael Ruppert.
If you are strong minded enough to resist the influence of the group and keep your morality intact, you will inevitably be excluded. In politics, you will be expelled from the party or asked for your resignation. On the marketplace, you might find it difficult to find suppliers or clients. In the corporation, you will be asked for your resignation or your employer will find a reason to expel you (e.g. insubordination). Your morality and business ethics prevent the Party Leader/Chief Executive to report a better quarter performance to the citizens/shareholders.
Our current democratic and capitalist systems have been denounced as irrational and dysfunctional by many, including Noam Chomsky, Joel Bakan and Michael Sandel. To stay at the table of the crap game, it pushes people to become white collar criminals. Edward de Bono, the father of lateral thinking, called this "ludecy", i.e. the sake of playing the game according to the way the rules are written, even when the players know it is morally wrong.
"Example 1: Real-estate agents want property prices to be as high as possible because their commission is a percentage of the price. That the price is too high for first time buyers is not of concern to the estate agents.
"Example 2: A good politician knows the game of being elected by playing the media game: how to get noticed without making a mistake which could destroy your political career. But being elected by being good at playing the media game does not mean being a good politician in government" (more here).
The MPs' expenses, the Iraq war, the banks and hedge funds, etc...No one wants to see the crap game collapses overnight because of ethic, CSR, and the righteousness justice that the victims deserve. It could cause serious collateral damages that no one can foresee.
In politics and markets, morality and social responsibilities are truly individual matters, not social or business matters. Should we keep playing the crap game? There is no direct answer to this difficult question. But for those of you who currently have no warm feelings for your bank, your MP, your boss, Kraft for the takeover of Cadbury, Tony Blair, the Office of Fair Trading and anybody else you consider to be responsible for the situation you/we are in, let's be honest and be objective: don't hate the players, hate the crap game. Hate the corrupt crap game. And you and I are playing it.