The Most Troubling Aspect

Ray Fisman of Foreign Policy Magazine and published an article on March 24, 2010 titled The Bad Kind of Corruption. The article is about how the recent "trial of four Rio Tinto employees on bribery and corruption charges in China may not bode well for the relatively orderly and benign style of corruption that allowed China's great leap forward into economic progress."

The author begins by describing how the economies have been growing in Indonesia and China, nations known for their corrupt government practices.  While I appreciate the author's courage bringing the issue to light, my challenge is with the method of judging right from wrong.

Is Bribery Wrong?

There is a tip-of-the-hat to the idea that corruption may not be good, that the people in these nations might "be richer otherwise." But then the author goes on to assert that known, stable corruption is good; at least better than unknown corruption.  The idea is that if businesses and individuals know what types of bribes are required to get something done in a particular region, it "levels" the playing field.  It goes on to assert that corruption in some ways "is no different from a tax, albeit one that gets deposited in the bureaucrat's pocket rather than the state treasury."

The author states, "The most troubling aspect of the recent Rio Tinto case is that it might be signaling to foreigners that they are entering a new era of uncertainty over the rules that govern their interactions with Chinese bureaucrats."

It seems from the article that the issue relating to the Rio Tinto trial in particular and corruption in government in general is simply a matter of economics. If it makes money, it's OK.  If it doesn't it could be bad.  Taxes are bad if they "discourage business entry and growth" and so are bribes.

Economic Growth?

As a citizen of a free nation, I'm ashamed for us.  Those of us who are free, living in governments with justice as a guiding principle or rule of law should be ashamed that we can so quickly forget the people who pay for the corruption.  They pay with their quality of life.  They pay with their safety and security.  It is not progress when a corrupt economy grows, it's corruption!  It simply becomes a more powerful corrupt economy.  Corrupt nations have learned that if they allow some money to trickle through to their people and if the business people in the other nations get their profit, they are free to practice any type of corruption they desire.

We have quickly traded our principles for profit. If it makes us money, we will find a way to rationalize it until we can judge the practice as acceptable. No matter that we make our profit at the expense of millions of voiceless people in those nations who have no choice but to labor under the very corrupt bureaucracy our riches finance.  As long as we get our profit, we're sorry about their problem, but we've got to make our quarterly numbers.

Basis of Judgment

When every moral judgment cooks off to money, our world is in a sad state.  If everyone is a consumer, taking all they can and judging results by their own profit, then our world becomes transactional and heartless.  The individuals in those corrupt nations are not free to do anything about their situation.  The "most troubling aspect" for me is that I live in free nation that has sacrificed freedom on the altar of profit.  We have sold ourselves into slavery - a slavery to money.  Not only do we cooperate with corrupt governments and bureaucracies, but our only concern is that our profits may be jeopardized when they act more corrupt than usual! (I suppose we can claim that it's not fair!)

We demonstrate our slavery to money when we judge a travesty such as this by the economic impact it may have. We sold our heart, our passion and our courage and our love for less fortunate people.  There was a time when we valued another's individual freedom, justice, and economic liberty above our own profit.  Will we simply argue the economic merits of something like this?  When will we stop serving our greed and begin to serve the people subject to this injustice?  Will we ever again stand up for character and resist the corruption?


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