It has been alleged that Brazil’s Labor Minister, Carlos Lupi, had demanded kickbacks from “charities and non-governmental organizations in exchange for funding from the ministry.” He has also been accused of receiving both a state and a federal government salary. Such talk has undermined his ability to work for the already-beleaguered government of President Dilma Rousseff. So he resigned.
We’ll see what happens to Lupi. But the charges reveal a problem we will always have as long as governments are big. The very ability to “make or break” a project, business or career is itself an opportunity to charge a premium for such service.
The bigger and more arbitrary government is by design, the more opportunity there is for corruption.
So why isn’t all government corrupt?
Well, separation of powers allows one government sector to watch over the others, perhaps jealously. And, as Brazil’s case shows, a free press helps.
But there’s also the cultural element.
A generally honest culture where people follow higher principles as a matter of habit can offset the dangers of governmental arbitrariness. This explains, perhaps, why Scandinavian countries managed under big government as successfully as they did, for so long. Going into the modern welfare state, Scandinavians were generally honest and morally upright.
Over time, though, this element recedes, as opportunities for corruption work their way into every level of society. As has happened in northern Europe generally.
Small, limited, citizen-controlled government is less corruptible. It also encourages a culture of honest dealing.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.