In the US, fears of undue Russian influence over the Trump Administration and numerous conflicts of interests among Trump Administration officials fuel concerns that the Trump Administration is removing barriers to corruption, instead of “draining the swamp” as Trump pledged to do during the 2017 campaign. With the US Federal government growing increasingly dysfunctional in nature, the US is failing to lead the world in good governance while following the worst examples of bad governance. Brazil’s faltering crackdown on corruption demonstrates the insidious nature of corruption, which provides useful insight to dealing with corruption.
Corruption is a parasite that burrows into government then steadily consumes every public good government undertakes and transforms government into a tool of oppression that steals from the masses to give to the affluent. Once embedded into the culture of government, corruption is nearly impossible to root out, because it attacks those who fight it and corrupts every official channel that it is supposed to combat it. For Brazil, social pressure from outside of government forced back open the official channels that were supposed to guard against corruption. Unfortunately, the success of anti-corruption efforts like “Operation Car Wash” has made it a target under the rule of interim President Michel Temer.
“Operation Car Wash” was so successful that it actually resulted in the downfall of President Dilma Rousseff, who helped make the crackdown possible. While supporters will say Rousseff was a victim of a legislative coup orchestrated by Vice President Michel Temer, he faces his owns accusations of corruption. The difference is that he is seeking to shutdown Operation Car War and other official means of addressing corruption, which would essentially immunize him from prosecution. The problem is not that the anti-corruption campaign has resulted in the down fall of popular political figures, it is that the effort to fix the Brazilians government failed to disarm and root out those who seek to corrupt the anti-corruption effort.
Corruption is a form of abuse by government. Consequently, it can be discussed and addressed by tackling all forms of abuse committed by government. The difficulty in dealing with abuse is that abusers tend to learn how to avoid punitive measures designed to discourage them from engaging in abusive behaviors. Politicians tend to be fairly well-liked by their peers, which is often the reason they are elected, and this favoritism shields them from outside criticism. With a solid base of support, politicians are able to abuse their positions to pursue their own interests at the expense of the People, because their abuse does not threaten their power.
In other words, corruption occurs when public officials are confident they can get away with it. By empowering law enforcement to investigate and prosecute public officials, scrutiny compels abusive leaders to avoid being caught. When corrupt leaders believe they will be caught and “punished,” such measures prevent corruption and government abuse. Sadly, clever abusers know how to protect themselves. One, they try to make their corruption lawful. Two, they insulate themselves from the consequences of their corruption by establishing plausible deniability by deriving benefits from affiliates instead of directly. Three, they corrupt anti-corruption measures.
To address corruption, it is helpful to distinguish between “corruption” and the legitimate business of the ruling government. Corruption is the illegitimate use of official assets, influence, and relationships to pursue one’s personal interests or political agenda. Traditional, non-liberal governments, e.g. monarchies and empires, do not focus on the rights and interests of the Peoples, because they exist to be served by their Peoples. The ruling authority views the territory and assets of their country as their own property, thus the term “corruption” lacks meaning, yet the practice still fosters rebellion, e.g. the Arab Spring Revolutions.
Rousseff became a sacrificial victim of her own willingness to confront corruption by empowering others to deal with corruption. She was also a victim of her corrupt associates and an environment where corruption is so ingrained that it is a way of life. Battling corruption means going to war. In the perpetual fight against corruption, people lose fortunes, careers, and their lives. When the Mexican government started cracking down on the Drug Cartels, the Cartels responded with bloody campaigns of mass terrorism. The goal was to make the crackdown so costly that people would give up. Having embrace violence as a means of control, the Cartels cannot return to nonviolent ways, thus the war for justice cannot be quit. Once the war has begun against corruption and crime, it cannot end until there is victory.
For the US, the hurdles that block the path to justice are smaller and fewer. For places like Brazil, they are larger and in greater numbers Because the Brazilian People seek freedom from corruption and their champions have confronted the corrupted, the beneficiaries of corruption have reacted. As the influence of the corrupted weakens, the easier the fight becomes, even as they lash out in desperation. When the war against corruption is waged through officials channels by individuals alone, individuals can be targeted, corrupted, and removed by any means necessary. When the war on corruption is waged by million, champions will fall and can be replaced until victory is achieved
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