Corruption = Poverty and Powerlessness

At VOA News, we see a story entitled Corruption Seen as Serious Problem in Most Countries, which contains this nugget of eternal truth:

Speaking generally of all countries, Nussbaum says there is a clear link between high levels of corruption and poverty. The report blames intermediaries from rich countries who often help local elites launder money and profit from assets looted from the state. “Corruption is an extremely serious problem not just for the country but above all for the people who live there and whose daily lives are damaged and curtailed by the prevalence of corruption,” he said.

This may come as a surprise to some of the do-gooders of the Western world, but it is just about impossible to bring wealth to the powerless in a poor nation that is run by corrupt (and therefore wealthy) leadership.

Go ahead, send over all the money and food you want, but when ruthless dictators rule with an iron fist, and fear rules the day, and there is no economy other than the meager scraps left over after the ruling class gets the lion’s share, then nothing of lasting value is going to come of it. Zip, zero, nada.

It’s like dropping a pebble in the ocean. Worse, actually, because it leaves those who tried to help instead feeling either helpless, or self-congratulatory.

It may come as a shock to those of us who have grown up in the United States, or other wealthy nations, but in reality, life is literally hell for the billions of people in the world that live in abject poverty and have no realistic shot at ever improving their lives. And while this has many causes, much of it can be traced directly to corruption, corruption which is usually both systemic and overt, and which enjoys special status as the default form of government throughout human history, and which is allowed to flourish in the absence of laws preventing it.

I like to complain about the U.S. government just as much as the next guy or gal, but sometimes we really ought to take a step back and realize that most of the world lives under much, much worse conditions than anything we in the West can even imagine. Afraid of the Patriot Act? Please. Tell that to the families of any of the hundreds of thousands of bodies found in the 400 or more mass graves found in Iraq. And have a nice tall glass of Perspective.

For more, I highly recommend P.J. O’Rourke’s “All The Trouble In The World”. It challenges — quite effectively — the very idea that giving things to powerless, poor people living in hellhole corrupt dictatorships can ever accomplish anything of value.

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