Corruption is a Venerable Democratic Tradition


Up here in the true North, we’re heading for a fall election, which inevitably brings on pundits tearing out their remaining hairs over the corruption of our so called democratic state. Or the state or our democracy. They have a point. The obscene levels of inequality, the unsustainable raping of the environment are now so pronounced that NASA has published a study predicting western society’s collapse sometime within the next 15 years. Even I, old as I am, might live to enjoy that. Murray Dobbin examines this in a Tyee article

He doesn’t mince words as to who’s to blame: an organized attack on democracy by the neoliberals, Milton Friedman and The Trilateral Commission. All perfectly legal and very successful. They began their campaign to change our minds about how we should run things 40 years ago, and the outcomes are crystal clear. (Unless you believe Macleans’ Mag, which delivered itself of this front page headline: How the Muslim World Is Failing, which must mean we’re ‘winning’).

However; lest we forget that democracy is an ongoing struggle that has never delivered exactly what is promised, let me show you potent proof, written with admirable frankness by a Tammany Hall politician. Lapham’s Quarterly reprinted it and as a public service, I herewith reprint it yet again. I trust you will recognize the indomitable spirit of neo liberalism and its cheerful greed as our very own. Whether it serves as a spur to vote or to plunge you into Monday morning gloom; here it is.

1905 | New York City

Honest Graft

There’s an honest graft, and I’m an example of how it works. I might sum up the whole thing by sayin’, “I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.”

Just let me explain by examples. My party’s in power in the city, and it’s goin’ to undertake a lot of public improvements. Well, I’m tipped off, say, that they’re going to lay out a new park at a certain place.

I see my opportunity, and I take it. I go to that place, and I buy up all the land I can in the neighborhood. Then the board of this or that makes its plan public, and there is a rush to get my land, which nobody cared particular for before.

Ain’t it perfectly honest to charge a good price and make a profit on my investment and foresight? Of course it is. Well, that’s honest graft. Or, supposin’ it’s a new bridge they’re goin’ to build. I get tipped off, and I buy as much property as I can that has to be taken for approaches. I sell at my own price later on and drop some more money in the bank.

Wouldn’t you? It’s just like lookin’ ahead in Wall Street or in the coffee or cotton market. It’s honest graft, and I’m lookin’ for it every day in the year. I will tell you frankly that I’ve got a good lot of it too.

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