Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pay to Play: How is what Governor Rod Blagojevich did any different from lobbyists buying power with money?

We were all shocked, yes shocked, to hear that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich had been caught on tape talking about how he was going to directly profit (in the monetary sense) from his power to appoint Obama's replacement in the Senate.

But really how is this any different from so-called campaign donations? I mean, if it is ok to give money to politicians in order to influence them and the ultimate result of an election, what is wrong with doing it a little more directly? It is like how it is illegal to bribe a witness to testify yet it is ok for a prosecutor to give them a reduced sentence or lesser charge (or none at all) for doing so. That is a bribe by any meaningful definition of the word. Something of value given in exchange for testimony. It is just a semantics game to say otherwise.

I'm sure plenty has been said about this already. I don't say this to excuse his actions. He's a first-class slimeball. But I just find it utterly amusing to see how easily everyone seems to agree that it is wrong what happened here while pols everywhere in the nation are taking in billions of dollars (in the aggregate) in political "donations." The laughable thing is that if someone just gave the governor a huge check as a "political donation" and they never discussed it openly, and then the governor appointed that donee to the Senate seat, it would have all been 100% legal. So really, his crime was talking about it, not actually doing it.

Because that's how our hypocritical political culture works. It is ok to pay money for favors. You just have to pretend that it isn't what you are doing. If you actually admit it, then the bubble pops and you can't do it anymore. It reminds me of how jury nullification works. Juries can nullify any criminal charge, but only if they don't actually discuss or admit that is what they are doing.

And now this all brings to mind a book I read some time ago, which I can't recall the title to now, but which was about a society where everyone told the absolute truth, all of the time, without holding anything back. It was an amusing read, especially the introductory banter and small talk you'd see take place between men and women. I'm sure it is obvious why that could be very amusing. I'll have to dig that up and see if I can post the title.

I wonder if it is somehow the case that society can't function without a veneer of lies to hide what is really going on. Like in Victorian England. Like how probably the largest, by far, use of the internet is for watching porn, yet hardly anyone will admit to watching it. It is enough to give me a headache.

1 comment:

The Barefoot Bum said...

I wonder if it is somehow the case that society can't function without a veneer of lies to hide what is really going on.

It is probably the case that a society that exploits the vast majority of the people cannot exist without a veneer of hypocrisy. However, if we were to create a world where exploitation itself were not ineluctably embedded in the system itself, the need for hypocrisy would be much reduced, if not eliminated entirely.