Right Thinking From The Left Coast
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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Mirroring the Egyptian Mirror

Glenn Greenwald has an article up this morning about what he calls the “Look Over There” media narrative.  He notes that many of the complaints the people of Egypt and our own media make about Mubarak’s government could be made about ours.  Viz:

Can you believe that “in Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt,” private wealth translates into great political power and vice-versa?  What is it like, wonders the curious and concerned Times reader, to live in a country like that?  No wonder there’s an uprising.

How many American politicians with a national platform over the last thirty years have failed to convert their political standing into great personal wealth?  Perhaps only those who began their political careers with great wealth.  Ex-Presidents and their wives and top aides are routinely lavished with many millions of dollars from media companies and other corporations for books, speeches and other services (Obama didn’t even wait to become President to capitalize on his political celebrity), while a large portion of ex-members of Congress and administration officials with any real power feed at the trough of corporate largesse in exchange for peddling their influence.  It would literally be impossible to list all the top officials from both parties who have quickly converted their political influence into vast personal wealth over the past two decades; it’d be much quicker to list the few who haven’t.

To compare the corruption of our political system to that of Egypt’s is ridiculous.  The NYT article Greenwald keys off of is about Ahmed Ezz, a political crony who controls 2/3 of the steel market in Egypt.  Entire slices of the Egyptian economy are controlled by a small cadre of friends of Mubarak. Meanwhile, millions of Egyptians wallow in state of poverty that is unimaginable in the US.  Third world poverty simply does not exist in America (I recently saw a statistic that the poorest 5% in America are wealthier than the richest 5% in India).  To compare our semi-corrupt system to the wholly corrupt Egyptian plunder state is absurd.

(Liberals have been going on about this a lot recently, talking about the wealth gap in this country compared to Egypt.  Now ignore that the wealth gap is massively exaggerated in this country due to the bogus use of “per household” stats, the exclusion of benefits from wage calculations, any accounting for technological improvement, etc., etc., ad infinitum.  Also ignore the stunning class mobility numbers—86% of those who were poor 30 years ago are no longer poor. The wealth gap in the US, such as it is, is the result of having some people getting very rich, not the rest of us getting poor.)

The biggest problem with Greenwald’s critique, however, is that he is a big-government liberal. What does he think is going to happen when the government controls, for example, the entire healthcare industry?  The bigger government gets, the more wealthy interests have at stake in it.  What does he expect pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies to do when the federal government is paying half the healthcare bills in America?  What does he expect energy interests to do when a stroke of Obama’s pen can shift billions of dollars?  Greenwald is invited to look up the history of nationalized industries in this country and the cesspool of corruption those industries inevitably became.

Corruption in government is endemic.  Government is corruption.  We have to accept a certain amount of this: you can’t get roads built without the occasional money-pocketing contractor, for example.  But most people understand that government does not draw angels and saints; it draws pick-pockets and shysters.  (And if you think Nobel European Governments are exempt from this, I invite you to take a big whiff of Silvio Berlusconi’s government).

If you don’t want a plunder state like they have in Egypt, don’t make our central government as powerful as theirs.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 02/08/11 at 08:06 AM in Politics   Law, & Economics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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