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Elite Corruption, American-Style

In light of my post yesterday on the Bo Xilai trial, I came across this interesting bit published on Walter Russell Mead’s blog:

Here in the United States, our unprincipled politicians and greedy business elite have engaged in orgies of nepotism for a long time now. And the practice seems to be gaining momentum with the children or spouses of famous politicians (see Chelsea Clinton or Jenna Bush) landing network television gigs and other plums. To get some insight into how this dirty game is played, take a look at This Town, the excellent book by Mark Lebovitch examining the culture of corruption in Washington.

We’re going to be looking out for more stories like these, because elite corruption, crony capitalism and the cozy ménage a trois of big government, big business and big media are direct threats to the rule of law and the culture of virtue that make freedom possible. Sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, spouses and other connections of famous people shouldn’t jump to the head of the line for prestigious jobs, and when it happens, people should know about it and discuss it openly. Conflicts of interest when lobbyists hire politicians’ wives or elite kids, or when investment banks fast track the entitled, aren’t “victimless crimes.” They hurt the bright and hard working people who don’t have special connections. They hurt the American polity by corrupting our institutions and our society.

China suffers under a corrupt, entitled elite of “princelings” and others who are looting the state and laying the foundations for a titanic and destructive social explosion. Our problems in the US are not yet at that scale, but they are large, and they are growing. Most of the people involved know in their hearts that they are doing wrong; Via Meadia hopes that public exposure and accountability will strengthen the self respect and self control in our elites. We hope this will ensure that fewer of them will be caught doing anything as un-American and shameful as using a public position to get good jobs for their kids, and that media companies and others (are you listening, NBC?) will realize that the public relations blowback from hiring the children of the rich and famous can be severe.