Gnomicon 100

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Introduction to Gnomica.

Gnomicon  100
Friday 17 August 2012

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“If you work hard,
and put your heart and soul into it,
then you are allowed to steal some.”
Shivpal Singh Yadav, minister in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh
“India: Official’s Advice Prompts an Outcry” [online]
The New York Times  11 Aug 2012  p. A6

I don’t know much about Indian politics, but one does read from time to time that India is ‘one of the most corrupt countries in the world’ – but these days one reads this so very often of so very many countries that the statement has become essentially meaningless.

I appreciate that there is corruption and there is corruption, but this honest declaration by what I would consider a dishonest politician does give pause.  I don’t really know how much corruption there is in the governments of the United States and its constituent states and municipalities, but on the basis of what I read in the press and see on television (both perhaps not entirely disinterested media) I believe that it is considerable.

After all, in the United States, as in Uttar Pradesh, there are human beings involved.  And in my very personal view, the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission clearly legitimized (literally!), openly promoted and vastly expanded the enablement of American corruption.  Thus, if I understand this matter correctly, there is now no practical limit to how much money entities, unions and corporations can contribute to political campaigns.  By the magic of legal fiat, money, you see, has morphed into free speech.  And the notion that in the current fevered campaign season these court-sanctioned Niagaras of dollars now cascading into elections up and down and throughout the land are strictly a matter of disinterested love of country on the part of the donors and not tightly linked to high expectations of remuneration in some form or another down the road is, I would imagine, rather difficult for most of us to entertain with a straight face (wink, wink!).  Thus, the Court’s argument that “independent expenditures do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption” strikes me as – and I mean no disrespect – ludicrously, infantilizingly naïve.  On my personal as well as general inferential experience of human beings we as a species simply are not that altruistic.

I do not wish to suggest anything like an equivalence between what apparently goes on in Uttar Pradesh and probably in the United States – I know of no American politician who has been so overtly honest in talking about the matter as the Indian gentleman!  But the obtaining attitudes would seem to be merely differently situated loci moving about on a kind of sliding scale of corruption.  And the egregiousness of the one prompted this articulation about suspicions I have of the other.

And – oh! – in defense of minister Shivpal Singh Yadav, in the end he helpfully admonishes those whom he ‘licenses’ to steal from the people, “But don’t be a bandit.”

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