[LFC Comments: As I read this article, originally given in a 1993 lecture, I realized that it is calling out our current society. When a Congressional representative has no punishment for lying while in the performance of his duty (Adam Shiff, et al), destroying or defacing works of art is not a crime, looting until stores are completely gutted, burning buildings is no longer a crime, a coup to remove a sitting President is not prosecuted, laundering of money from the federal till goes unpunished, then I believe we can say “Houston, we have a big problem!]
This article is adapted from a lecture given to TFP members on 12-4-1993
When Society is Corrupt, Is There a Solution?
December 20, 2007 | Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
A while back, the Italian Parliament voted to overturn prison sentences for politicians convicted of receiving illegal campaign contributions in light of unprecedented scandals. The legislation established that illegal contributions to political campaigns were no longer crimes but simply “civil offenses,” where those convicted would no longer be arrested but fined.
All the nation’s parties, communists and pro-autonomy members of the Northern League alike, joined members of corruption-tainted parties to get the law approved. Political contributions are no longer illegal as long as they are used exclusively to finance election campaigns. The new law was retroactive and benefited defendants.1
The Italian law is an example that shows how campaign finance is a very real problem that plagues so many modern nations. Given the possibility of corruption, it is often asked if it is licit to finance candidates.
In principle, a rich man or corporate businessman who pays a large sum of money to finance the political campaign of a politician with ideas similar to his own should not be censured for it.
Indeed, a man who can financially help elect a candidate with a platform capable of saving his country would show great stinginess if he failed to do so.
In theory, the fact that a rich person donates to get a poorer one elected is not dishonest. It can even be considered an act of virtue.
This changes, however, when a businessman or banker supports a presidential candidate for reasons other than ideological affinity. If he finances the politician’s campaign so he can received kickbacks and business contracts later, then their agreement is spurious. The matter becomes worse when the kickbacks involve the companies that are not the most cost-efficient ones. An agreement of this kind transforms an act of idealism into a corrupt deal, and is therefore illicit.
Furthermore, the businessman can exact from the State a much higher price than would a competitor who did not help elect the candidate. Thus, by charging a disproportional price for services rendered, the deal takes on an irrefutably dishonest nature.
Corruption and System of Government
In theory, this kind of falsification found in election systems does not always happen. It depends on the people involved. Honest people will work for the State and the common good. Thus, one cannot draw from this an argument against any form of government or against the capitalist system. One can only infer that fraud can take place in a democratic form of government, a claim that can also be made against other forms of government as well.
Do ut des; Facio ut Facias
The above considerations are greater or lesser variations on a central thought that could be described by the maxim of Roman law: Do ut des; facio ut facias (I give you that you may give me; I do for you that you may do for me). This arrangement can be honest or dishonest, depending on the understanding of the parties involved.
Dishonesty can occur in any form of government, be it democracy or monarchy. It can also occur in the capitalist or communist system. However, it is well to recall that, in addition to the fact that Communism is intrinsically evil, communist regimes turned their party members, particularly their leadership, into a nomenklatura which meant a privileged caste in former Soviet jargon. This system became very patent after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Degree of Public Morality
Thus, the crux of this matter is not found in a particular form of government or economic system. It lies in the degree of public morality and particularly the behavior of public officials. The fact is that such fraudulent deals do not take place where people take the existence of God seriously and really abide by His Law.