Thursday, May 16, 2019

Corruption and Voter Loyalty

Here's an interesting little tidbit about how democracy actually works, from Ann Pettifor's TLS review of Nicholas Shaxson's The Financial Curse. Shaxson has a whole chapter about Charles Haughey, probably the most important Irish politician of the 1970s and 1980s, who never held any job but elected office yet somehow died with a mansion on a large estate near Dublin, a huge yacht, an art collection and a stable of racehorses. Establishment types called him and his associates "gombeen men," which translates to "shysters" or maybe just "crooks."
By shining a light on Haughey's popularity with his voters, Shaxson illuminates an aspect of crookery well known to anyone who has worked for any length of time in Nigeria, or in Berlusconi's Italy or Donald Trump's America: "a taint of corruption can sometimes help politicians." Fintan O'Toole of the Irish Times explains: "As a reaction to the idea of faceless, fluid forces shaping one's destiny, an extreme of local loyalty and of personal intimacy is an act of defiance against Them – whoever They are. Doing the last thing you're supposed to do may be the final assertion of power against a feeling of powerlessness. The real wonder was not that the fraudsters got elected but that more politicians did not claim to be crooks in order to get elected."
Loyalty, you know, is nothing great if you are only loyal when your friends do the right thing. But loyalty given despite high crimes or monstrous sins is, for some people, something much more powerful.


G. Verloren said...

Democracy breaks down when the electorate is anything other than highly educated, principled, and rational.

In a more ideal world, voters would not tolerate corrupt politicians and they would be removed from office, or never even reach office to begin with. But our electorate is corrupt, and so our officer holders are corrupt. Garbage in, garbage out.

Susi said...

I heard it in Ft Walton Beach, FL about Bob Sikes:
He may be a thief, but he’s our thief.