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« Jefferson on Liberalism and Anti-Aristocracy | Main | Is the Future of Europe One of Freedom? »


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Government is a large enterprise. Some of its workers are in the job of keeping extraction costs low by being friendly, doing some things for people, but most importantly by projecting an image of power, effectiveness, and goodness. The remainder of the workers are, ahem, actively looking for new or expanded sources of revenue.

Point is -- obviously, I like Olson's notion of government as a stationary bandit, and from that standpoint it is hard to see the value of the "corruption" concept. If the nature of the enterprise is extraction, to be corrupted would seem to suggest that you either (1) attempted to tear down your own organization, i.e., act contrary to the organization's own PR, or (2) attempted to reduce or cease an effective extraction scheme, i.e., act contrary to your organization's bottom line. Either way, you'd probably get fired right quick. (See, government does weed out corrupt officials!) :)

Looking on the bright side, complex problems give you many points of entry and you have to hope that there is sufficient division of labour to permit lots of different attacks that eventually reinforce each other. Some people can work from the head down and others can work from the bottom, with research to check what works and what gives the best return to effort.

Durkheim was onto some of this when he pointed out that the first line of defence of the moral order is the internalisation of standards, so good values will translate into good behaviour across a whole range of issues from shoplifting to traffic violations in NYC and graft and corruption in office. But only to a point, when the system is too bad then the pressures become practically overwhelming to do the wrong thing.

Michael Novak was good on these things as well, he wrote a book that synthesised some Austrian insights with elements of Catholic theology about the good society. He also pointed out that early capitalism in the US created a great value system that combined self sufficiency and enterprise with community service and civic responsibility. There is now a Michael Novak prize that has just been awarded so a man working on business ethics and organizational behavior.

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