A Parable on Corruption

Let’s suppose we have an “honest” man who is genuinely interested in the welfare of his people and wishes to see their lot bettered. Suppose this “honest” man, runs for office on the platform of Change because he sincerely believes that the problem with the government is a need for change. He states his 4, 5 or 6-point agenda and promises to start actualizing them immediately he comes to power.

This man starts to campaign, and true enough, he starts to make an impact with the electorate and his name soon enough becomes a household name. Everyone, including special interest groups, political opponents and those who have “gone ahead of him” start to notice him and the simply can’t ignore his popularity.

Now, this “honest” man is in pole position to not only clinch his party’s nomination, but win the general election. 

There is however a snag, the political structures that must carry him to victory are still being controlled by special interests and older politicians. Now our “honest” man must either negotiate compromises, or forfeit his opportunity to “serve his beloved people”. Sure enough, he negotiates deals that would perpetuate the things he had come to abhor about politics and politicians. He soon realizes that everybody has “self interests” to protect and those are the ones that he must accommodate to be nominated as his party’s flag bearer. He makes compromises and he gets the party’s nomination. The public rejoices not knowing what it cost their “honest” man (and them) to get the nomination.
The campaigns for general election commence and the popular votes are split between several parties with our “honest” man’s party with a very slight margin ahead of its closest rival. He must either negotiate with the other smaller parties whose coalition with his party would give him a comfortable lead, or risk going into the general election with a very slim lead that could become a disadvantage. So what does “honest” man do? He negotiates again, he has to accommodate the self interests of others to be able to achieve his own and that of his “dear” people. 

He eventually comes to power, but not all are happy that he is in power and so he does not have an overwhelming majority. To push his 6-point agenda, he has to negotiate again for the sake of his “dear” people. Negotiations which lead to a whittling down of his promises, or his allowing the status quo to remain in some areas (even those areas that are against his convictions); after all, he would need a large support base to actualize his goals.

Four years into the reign of “honest” man and the game of politics has made him very weary indeed. Looking back at his achievements, he hasn’t done as much as he had hoped, and the reason for that is because he has had to make compromises for the sake of the very things he is yet to achieve. 
“Honest man” has come to learn one irrefutable truism about man, “there is one thing you can trust everybody to do and that is to put his interest above yours.” He had hated this at first, tried to deny it even, but he has slowly come around to accepting it and even learned to live with it and use it to his own advantage sometimes. 

“Honest man” still intends to achieve his 6-point agenda, so he has to run for a second term so that his beloved “people” will reap the benefits of the trust reposed in him. But his foray into politics have shown “honest” man that the rules have to bend (to the point of breaking sometimes) and this is the price he has to pay if he ever hopes to change the game of politics so that this rule will never ever have to hinder future “honest” men like himself. He has to use “Egypt’s wisdom to one day fight Egypt”. So, like those before him, “honest” man agrees to use the machinery that would guarantee him a second term (for the sake of his beloved people). Honest man realizes that he has to spend money from the state treasury, repay favors, look the other way (if need be) just so that he would be in a position to “one day change the God forsaken political climate”. He does whatever is needed to achieve the goals that he promised to his beloved people.

Everything goes according to plan, and “honest” man is in for his second term. But he made new enemies during the process of re-election and he either has to mend fences or finish off his enemies (politically at least). After all, his “beloved” people will be the ones who wouldn’t have the benefits they voted him for if his “unfortunate compromises” are exposed and he is removed. So, “Honest” man gets to work immediately at discrediting these enemies, all for the sake of his 6-point agenda, but he spends the first 2 years of his second term doing this, and before long, “honest” man’s tenure is nearly up.

What to do? Well, he can attempt to get a “third term” (but that is unconstitutional) or anoint a successor, who will do all his bidding. After all, it is for the sake of his beloved people that he is doing this. So he swings into action….

Meanwhile, the “beloved” people of “honest” man can’t believe what they are seeing; before their very eyes, “honest” man, who had so much promise, who they were convinced understood their pain (because he was one of them) has become an ineffectual, clueless, and dangerously corrupt leader.
They can’t understand what could have possibly gone wrong with “honest” man. This was after all one of the most outstanding men from their midst. They resolved that they won’t vote for him a second time as a show of their displeasure but to their utter dismay, “honest” man wins a second term. How? How did he do it without their consent? Has he also used the machinery that he railed against the first time, the same machinery he promised to dismantle? Oh “honest” man, what has become of you our dear “honest” man?

“People who intend to serve only the public interest are led by an invisible hand to serve private interests which was no part of their intention.” – Milton Friedman

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