Friday, December 12, 2008

Small Government: A Powerful Tool in Fighting Corruption

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D). Need I say more? By now we’ve all heard how he was trying to sell Barrack Obama’s vacant Senate seat in a less-than-discrete manner. At a press conference, the U.S. Attorney said that what Blagojevich did would “make Lincoln turn in his grave.” Illinois residents are upset about this, yet they re-elected this guy while he was the subject of three federal investigations. What should they expect? Additionally, there is speculation regarding whether the Obama team may have had any involvement in this matter. It sounds like there wasn’t any active involvement, yet this event does provide another telling indicator about media bias; John Fund’s recent article in the Wall Street Journal sums this up well: “[T]he media devoted a lot more time and energy to investigating the inner workings of Sarah Palin's Wasilla, Alaska, than it has looking at Mr. Obama's Chicago connections.” Reality is now confirming for us Mr. Fund is quite correct.

As someone who is an advocate of small government (heck I used to work for an organization whose website is, I find corruption scandals an instructional tool for the value of small government in promoting clean government. This lesson is especially important at a time when small government is being blamed for the current recession, and at a time when some are advocating more government control of our healthcare and banking systems.

When government is small, the opportunities for corruption are reduced. There are fewer agencies to be run, which means there are fewer opportunities to dole out Cush Government Agency Positions as rewards for campaign contributions, personal loyalty, or other non-meritorious reasons. In the Illinois situation, if Governor Blagojevich was taking bids for Obama’s seat, what are the odds that he was doing the same (or at least could easily do the same) for positions in the State Department of Education, Human Services, etc. The point is, the fewer government agencies, the fewer government positions the Governor can “sell.”

Along the same lines, a smaller government means that there are fewer special interests clamoring for favors. In addition to fewer people seeking agency jobs, there are also fewer entities trying to get government contracts (with certain legislators and executives getting cuts of the profits), and fewer people seeking appropriations for pet projects.

A small government is also easier to monitor. When government employs millions of people to work in millions of agencies, corruption is hard to catch. By contrast, when there are fewer employees and fewer agencies, government accountability offices have a much easier time monitoring the situation, as do media and ordinary citizens.

Smaller government means more services provided by the private sector, which, in turn, means less motive for corruption. How many businesses will sell jobs for $500,000? (None that I know of.) While there may be nepotism in both the public and private sectors, a private business cannot expect to make a profit if they allow utterly unqualified individuals to run said businesses; government, on the other hand, can get away with it (remember Brownie?). Finally, unlike government, in order for a private business to stay afloat, it must earn the dollars of its customers. That means producing better and safer products, providing quality customer service, and efficient operation. Government agencies, unfortunately, seem to get funded regardless of performance.

The Illinois scandal is a reminder that not all of those who go into public office are angels. Regardless of their motives when first running (Blagojevich ran as a “reformer”), having the ability to appoint people to high level positions and having access to taxpayer dollars sometimes leads people to make bad decisions (or in Blagojevich’s case, ones that are just downright stupid). This scandal should remind we the people of our responsibility to hold our elected officials accountable and throw out the ones that abuse their positions. This weighty task could be made easier by reducing the number of people whose acts we have to monitor.

Update: On November 21, I posted on whether Senator Grassley would be the next victim of hte Democrat wave. In that post I mentioned the possibility of a Vilsack-Grassley showdown in 2010. DailyKos has conducted polling on this matchup, and supposedly Vilsack is giving our Senior Senator a run for his money. Krusty has the story. I still stand by my earlier predictions that 1) Vilsack won't run, and 2) even if he does, he won't win.
By W. Sherman

1 comment:

Bull R. Moose said...

I do believe that the GOP is vulnerable in this spot as well. Grassley, as much as we love him, is getting older and there is no guarantee that he will want to run again as he is extremely committed to his family. Hopefully, the GOP has a plan in place to run a rising star when Senator Grassley decides to hand over the reins to someone else.