Lax morals

The influence of so-called TV tribunals is no doubt disquieting – but it would not have reached such unnerving proportions were it not for the widespread corruption besetting the country’s political system. Self-styled TV prosecutors are the wrong answer to an acute problem. The far-reaching tentacles of corruption have a deleterious effect on society. People bribe state officials to spare time-consuming bureaucracy. In the higher echelons of power, corruption manifests itself in a different form. The so-called entangled interests undermine free competition and weaken democratic institutions. Such practices also damage moral values and the collective well-being. They also hinder economic development and put an additional strain on the backs of taxpayers. Worse, both voters and politicians are getting used to this unacceptable situation. Public disdain, which used to keep the lid on corruption, has all but disappeared. During Socialist PASOK’s rule, political will was frail. Costas Karamanlis, the conservative premier, was elected after making the war on corruption the cornerstone of his policy. It would be unfair to dismiss his record so far on combating the scourge. For one thing, that former climate of impunity is no more. But much more remains to be done to reverse the slide. There are no easy solutions – not just because top-level corruption is hard to combat, nor because lower-level graft has become so widespread that it is hard to disentangle from the parties’ patron-client ties. The biggest problem is lax morals. People see that Machiavellian tactics are rewarded. Political rhetoric must be supplemented with drastic institutional measures and much tighter state monitoring. That is the only hope for remedying the situation and building a healthier social conscience.