Corruption Rules the World

By Pryce-Jones, David | The American Spectator, December 1997 | Go to article overview

Corruption Rules the World


Pryce-Jones, David, The American Spectator


MUCH AS FASCISM AND COMMUNISM PLAGUED THE 20TH CENTURY, CORRUPTION WILL RAVAGE THE 21ST. BLAME THE GLOBAL ECONOMY IF YOU WISH, BUT ABOVE ALL BLAME THE WEST FOR ALLOWING THE CRIMES OF COMMUNISM TO BE SWEPT UNDER THE RUG.

Globalization is the buzzword of the moment The nation-state is said to be giving way to the multinational company. A trillion dollars cross the exchanges every single day. Man is born free, and everywhere finds himself with e-mail and the Internet History is ending, and we shall be one happy family living in regional versions of democracy.

Corruption is the specter at this feast; it is the by-product of Globalization, and perhaps its fulfillment too. Corruption of course comes in several forms, not only financial but moral, cultural and institutional; as organized crime or individual buccaneering; thriving in the absence of law or on the contrary because there is too much law. Self-reinforcing, the forms of corruption are altogether challenges to the rule of law. Another cold war is shaping in defense of democracy. This calls for an effort of will as serious as in the previous struggles against Nazism and Communism. In its latest disguise, here is that most ancient of questions-are men to be ruled by force, or by consent?

Thanks to its tradition and values, to the free market and undisputed military supremacy, the United States stands apart, threatened by every sort of corruption, internal and external, but apparently the only democratic model in a position to offer resistance. It will have to wage the new cold war virtually on its own.

In far the greatest part of the world, absolutism and tyranny remain the human norm. The strong still seize the spoils, and their subjects go to the wall. Superior force is decisive. Saddam Hussein spoke recently for absolutism with the immortal words, "Law consists of two lines above my signature."

If democracy is to be meaningful, individuals must be as responsible as possible for themselves, and their representatives must be made accountable. Sovereignty in a democratic state is not a matter of power or independence of policy (as so often and so wrongly supposed) but consists in that common element of trust binding everyone who respects the state's particular set of laws, and so makes citizens of them.

The formative political movements of the age have been cumulative onslaughts on such concepts. Nazism and Communism were criminal associations of the strong to exploit the weak, and that twin-headed legacy is still working its way through. Communism's fractious little brothers, socialism and social democracy, aspired to erect collective societies through persuasion rather than force. Since people could not be trusted to do what was in their own best interest, government had to do it for them.

Benign as the intention here may have been, the practice instead bred either cynicism or dependency on the state. People have increasingly been unable to trust those passing and enforcing the laws and regulations which they are expected to obey. Real sovereignty unravels accordingly. Throughout Europe, its birthplace, democracy is transforming before one's eyes into something still uncertain but unmistakably absolutist.

The postwar world further set about creating a range of nongovernmental organizations of one sort or another, whereby decisions affecting the citizen are taken, but without him having any effective and direct representation. The United Nations and its agencies, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, G-7, the World Trade Organization, the Pugwash and Bilderberg and many more conferences, international bodies supposedly in control of atomic energy and weapons and communications and a hundred other things, even the George Soros and other foundations, are a kind of top-down amalgam of activity, where citizens have no say, and cannot throw the rascals out. Marginalizing or bypassing parliamentary representation, this evolving form of globalizing absolutism breeds impotence and yet more cynicism. …

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