Banana Republicans (and Democrats)

Depressingly accurate. That's what I would call this assessment of the level of corruption that has burrowed into every corner of our political system (and the systems of other "advanced" democracies.)

Why would I post this essay on a blog dedicated to "cultivating gratitude and roots"?

Because this endemic corruption saps our willingness and ability to genuinely cultivate the essential public sphere that is our real home. There is little to be grateful for in a fixed game. However, we must not surrender to the status quo or we will be abdicating our own role as stewards / cultivators of the common good.

via The American Conservative


Most Americans probably think of corruption as a cop in a third-world country demanding a bribe in lieu of issuing a parking ticket. Real corruption is actually much more damaging in the U.S. than elsewhere because it involves far larger sums and is frequently hidden behind a smokescreen of law.

...More than in Europe if only because it has been going on longer, money has corrupted every aspect of government at every level in the United States, creating a system in which laws are passed to make various forms of corruption legal. What is “legal” becomes a substitute for what is “responsible or accountable” even though they are not the same, meaning that the interaction of government with its citizenry is frequently framed purely in terms of what people are and are not allowed to do. The revolving door of former government officials that feeds into the perfectly legal lobbying system that prevails in the U.S. and nowhere else in the world is all part of a huge industry. Many would regard lobbying as the worst possible case of institutionalized corruption, as it operates largely behind closed doors to serve special interests that in turn profit from the process, and it does little or nothing for the broader public interest.

The rot starts with the bipartisan dominance of what passes for political process in the United States. The vetting procedure managed by the two parties and their batteries of lawyers coupled with large cash flows from special interests means that challenging the status quo is well-nigh impossible. So if you want to know why Washington pursues policies that do not serve any conceivable national interests, you only have to look at the bottom level where the voter has, in reality, no choice because he is only offered a cookie cutter politician.

The failure of the Tea Party movement perfectly illustrates the problem. Voters eventually became so upset with the status quo that they lashed out and organized to change things. In the case of the Tea Party, they initially demanded smaller, more responsible government, constitutionalism, and an end to America’s perpetual wars, surely all positive objectives. So what happened? The Tea Party was hijacked as its leadership came to be defined by folks like Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Michelle Bachmann, and Marco Rubio. Ron Paul’s noninterventionist legacy was conveniently forgotten and replaced by traditional GOP across-the-board bellicosity, while small and constitutional government became focused largely on two issues, Obamacare and guns. When the Tea Party weakened because it no longer stood for anything, the GOP establishment quickly moved to eliminate it.

It is depressing to have to acknowledge that corruption in government is so accepted even in politically advanced nations that those who engage in it are rarely held accountable in any serious way. It is as if it is the agreed on price of doing business, but in reality it distorts critical decision making, creates inequality, and weakens the social cohesion that enables most nations to function. A largely alienated citizenry will find it difficult to rally round the flag, so to speak, when a genuine national emergency develops.

Read the entire article here.