Curbing prospects for corruption

For years now, we have been faulting political parties for their partisanship. We keep wondering what kind of world this is where parties cannot lift themselves above partisan concerns, why they keep recruiting cadres indiscriminately and why their leaders – despite their good intentions – fail to shut out corruptible individuals. Perhaps the time has come for us to shift our point of view and realize that where there is booty to be shared out, there will always be pirates; that where there is a large, unwieldy state there will be thousands of corrupt officials receiving kickbacks on thousands of government committees and business boards. Perhaps, ultimately, the real problem is not partisanship in the public sector but the sheer size of this sector which offers fertile ground for partisanship to flourish. At present, we are witnessing a remarkable phenomenon in Greece. Political cadres with diametrically opposed opinions find themselves in the same party, while those with the same outlook are in opposite camps. In general, opportunism prevails as a strategy. Political parties have turned into coalitions for promoting personal interests. Middle-ranking cadres have no political vision, they are simply laying the groundwork for themselves to assume some senior post in the public sector. Their thinking resembles that of mercenary troops in the Middle Ages who would wait for a state to be sacked before claiming the spoils. Unfortunately, this stance appears to be leading the current government to the same dilemma that Costas Simitis faced. He knew that he could not win the elections without his party but also that he could not govern with such a party. Afflictions are always stronger than intentions and the attraction of public funds is too great for even the honorable to resist. The problem is that ruling New Democracy started managing this affliction too early instead of pushing ahead with reforms. Instead of shrinking the state, it increased it, instead of streamlining committees, it has boosted them. Let’s get one thing straight. Crooks will always exist, the issue is how big a playing field they have to exploit.