This article was originally published by Charles Hugh Smith at Of Two Minds Blog.
Until we reach that point of social transformation, we’re passengers on a ship of state doomed by rampant, systemic corruption and the collapse of moral standards and the rule of law.
Political corruption isn’t hard to define: confidentially leveraging the power of one’s position in the State for private gain. This covers the spectrum of using State power for personal gain from freebies, bribes, sweetheart deals, obtaining insider information, revolving doors between the private sector and state positions, influence-peddling, selling tax breaks, subsidies, permits, etc., bloated speaking fees and so on, in a nearly limitless profusion of private financial gains generated solely by one’s position of power within the State–the legislative and regulatory government, central bank, military and judiciary–gains that are cloaked from public disclosure and scrutiny.
One example is employees in building-planning departments taking bribes from applicants to bypass lengthy permit reviews. Money changes hands privately to gain some state-issued benefit.
Public trust in institutions, the rule of law and basic fairness are all undermined by corruption. This is why even the hint of impropriety must be promptly investigated and the results made public.
But there is more to corruption than just investigating improprieties. The larger questions are:
1. Is corruption a rare occurrence or has it become business as usual, i.e. endemic, embedded, taken for granted as “the way things work”?
2. Is there any sense of sincere shame or wrongdoing when those reaping private gains from their positions in the State are publicly exposed? Or do the guilty disclaim any notions of sin or shame for betraying the Public Trust?
3. Are there two completely different Standards of Justice, Criminality and Punishment, one applied ferociously to the general public and another applied with the lightest of feathers to insiders, financial elites and the politically influential?
I submit that all three conditions are true: corruption is now BAU, business as usual; there is no sense of shame or wrongdoing when the corrupt are exposed, and there are two judicial standards, one for the bottom 99.9% and another for insiders, the well-connected, the influential, the politically protected and the super-wealthy, what I call America’s Aristocracy or Royalty.
Consider the cover-ups and obstruction of justice swirling around the family of POTUS the President of the United States: “Blatant Political Corruption”: The Rot In America’s Democracy Explained In Under 1000 Words.
In a nation that regarded the Public Trust as sacred, even the hint of impropriety at this level of government would have sparked an immediate and thorough-going investigation and calls for resignation and indictment.
Instead, nothing happens except the BAU of Corruption: the usual cover-ups, wrist-slaps for lesser violations, zero admission of guilt, zero display of shame, and zero punishment.
Despite a flood of partisan weeping and gnashing of teeth, SCOTUS is equally without shame. That the highest levels of the judiciary are blind to the impropriety of accepting gifts from super-wealthy “friends” whose interests extend deep into the dockets of the Supreme Court is evidence of just how low the sanctity of the Public Trust has sunk.
Then there’s SCROTUS: the Supremely Corrupt Royalty of the United States, the corporate bigshots, the lobbyists, the billionaires, the politically influential, the financially connected, and all the elites that are protected from consequence and therefore untouchable.
Consider the thousands of corporate fines imposed for fraud and other crimes: Corporate Settlements/Fines from the early 1990s to the present, compiled by Jon Morse. All wrist-slaps, as no corporate leaders served any prison time. The fines are just a cost of doing business for Corporate America’s Royalty.
I’ve addressed the systemic rot of corruption in America for years: No Wrongdoing Here, Just 6,300 Corporate Fines and Settlements (May 2015)
Corruption Is Now Our Way of Life (October 5, 2020)
The corruption of the rule of law and the resulting decay of the Public Trust are not partisan issues. America’s wealthy and powerful enrich themselves in a sandbox of corruption, regardless of their affiliations.
I’ve often referenced historian Peter Turchin’s work. His latest book, End Times: Elites, Counter-Elites, and the Path of Political Disintegration, outlines the dynamics that are dismantling America’s future. Chief among these is the primary consequence of systemic corruption, soaring wealth-income inequality. Hope in “End Times”: Peter Turchin’s analysis of our coming collapse could help us avoid it:
For all its breadth and depth, there’s a simple message at the core of “End Times”: At the heart of our problems, Turchin writes, is “a perverse ‘wealth pump’ … taking from the poor and giving to the rich,” and we have to find a way to turn it off.
The core of corruption is the maximization of private gain over serving the Common Good and Public Interest. When power is sought primarily for private gain, the social fabric decays and unravels.
Critic and author Christopher Lasch described the decay of the social order when shame has vanished. In today’s America, there is no sense of sin, guilt, shame or atonement. Any level of corruption is tolerated and excused, most perversely, “for the good of the country.”
Lasch’s last book, The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy (1996) lays bare the moral and political corruption of America’s elites. The decades since have confirmed his analysis.
My own modest contribution to the topic, Global Crisis, National Renewal focuses on the need for a social revolution that radically transforms what is financially and politically acceptable to the populace. A tipping point must be reached where systemic corruption and its result, destabilizing inequality, are no longer acceptable.
Until we reach that point of social transformation, we’re passengers on a ship of state doomed by rampant, systemic corruption and the collapse of the Public Trust, moral standards, and the rule of law.
What’s blatantly wrong is dismissed as normal. This encapsulates America’s collapse.