Americans know in their guts that foreigners are corrupt by U.S. standards unless their native language is English or after that, Germanic. From there, things degenerate as one heads south and become hopeless in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Oh, and China. That’s oversimplified but not false. And it points to something so far lacking sufficient attention, seems to me. Specifically: Corruption.
Why They Protest in Spain puts a spotlight onto a too-frequently ignored issue; all the fuss over ‘austerity’ (reducing the welfare state) in Europe isn’t only about people getting fewer goodies. Europeans know the money has disappeared. European political corruption becomes a more prominent target when so many are getting less while they see prominent exceptions still prospering via corruption. That is a notable piece of what’s being expressed in the streets of Spain today.
Cronyism Is Destroying Spain’s Future provides more analysis of the destructive effects of a society tolerant of the values that contribute to what Sarah Palin correctly labeled “crony capitalism,” which is to say, it’s who you know that matters. Spain makes a well-lit, current example, by no means the worst, of this economic disease that is destroying Western economies. The condition is much worse in Islamic countries as you move toward Central Asia and is terminal when you arrive in Afghanistan, which has no identifiable economy but opium, which is nominally illegal.
The great divide is between countries with a national economy and the multitude with a collection of tribal, warlord, religious or language-based mini-economies contending under a government. And much of the world seems to be reverting toward the latter model, or at risk of that.
That process seems at work in America today, too. The country is visibly more corrupt than it was in the first half of the last century, though not so bad perhaps as in the 1800’s. But at its roots, corruption merely requires citizens that put their own personal benefit over that of their fellows as a rule and we seem to be seeing much more of that, in our leaders as well as in our fellows. We have lost with our major religions the shared values that once helped us cohere in a common standard of accepted behavior; nothing to replace that standard has been put forth but government policing…and government is a leader of the corruption. Americans, should we allow this trend to continue, will be throwing away something precious, a thing most other societies have never managed and a major factor in our production of the enormous wealth we have accomplished. Once that painfully constructed beneficence has been lost, history warns that its return is unlikely, yet we seem to be happily letting it go.
Maybe we should stop and consider what it is we’re abandoning…