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Monday, April 19, 2010

Andrew Coyne on the root of government corruption

Lord Acton once wrote that "power tends corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." So it is of no surprise that as the state grows corruption grows with it. Andrew Coyne makes a similar point in his column:

But of course the federal government has become a vast spigot of this kind of thing, providing billions of dollars every year in subsidies to businesses, trade associations and other private groups. Just to list the “grants and contributions” over $100,000 takes up more than 280 pages of the Public Accounts of Canada, at around 60 lines a page. With all this money sloshing about, it stands to reason you’d find fraud artists waiting to take their piece, and well-connected friends to help them, just as they did under previous governments. We might as well put up a sign: The Buffet is Open.

As for Guergis, what was most noteworthy about her misbehaviour, until she finally became expendable—coincidentally, the day after Jaffer’s dealings hit the papers—was how little it appeared to discomfit the government. If the Prime Minister did not exactly stand by her, neither was he in any hurry to remove her. And why should he? She was only a cabinet minister, after all, one of 36 in Harper’s entourage. It’s not like she had an important job.

Perhaps the only way to prevent corruption is to cut back on the activities of government.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on April 19, 2010 | Permalink


"Perhaps the only way to prevent corruption is to cut back on the activities of government."

Of course it is.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-04-19 11:40:10 AM

Hey,we are lucky we don't live in Taxland,where the serfs do as they are told.

The Political Parasites of Taxland
By Stephen J. Gray

The political parasites ruled and infested a place called Taxland. This was a land where the people were modern day taxpaying serfs. The serfs over many years had been taxed into submission by the political parasites. The people were now prisoners of a system that was uncontrollable. Political parasites of all shapes, sizes, and genders ruled; and they chewed and munched their way through the serfs tax dollars. There was no escape from the ravenous appetites of the political leeches. These political bloodsuckers took a part of everything the serfs earned, bought, traded or received. Taxes had to be paid on just about everything, and the political parasites aim was to eventually tax everything. Nothing was going to be immune from the parasites and an antidote had not yet been found to control their parasitical infestation into the lives of the people. The people were being literally eaten alive by taxes from these tax addicted creatures of Taxland.

In this land if the serfs bought a new house it would be taxed. If they had to put a new roof on an older house because it was leaking, they were taxed on their misfortune. If they bought clothes or needed clothes for their children they were going to be taxed. If they bought a car they were taxed. If the car had to be repaired they were taxed. If they bought gas for their car they were taxed. If they bought toilet paper they were taxed. If they needed a new toilet it was taxed. There was no escape from these bottom feeding parasites. The taxing list was endless, though there had been a few exemptions. But, now the political parasites had decided to “improve” their system of taxing the serfs. They created a new tax called Hammer the Serfs Tax (HST). This tax would “simplify” the system and tax everything that moved and did not move. This would be a tax feeding bonanza for the political parasites, and the serfs hard earned money would flow like water into the coffers of Taxland. Taxes had become a racket, and gangsters and racketeers everywhere were complaining that the political parasites had usurped their territory and copied their system.

Still, the system was good to the political parasites. They themselves had huge salaries paid for by the serfs. Tax-free allowances, a rich pension plan that the serfs could only dream of. Some of them had limousines to take them from place to place as they went about their taxing business of ruling over the serfs. The serfs were also told by some of the lackeys of the parasites that some of these new taxes would create jobs. And, a big banker reportedly said, “taxes had to be raised.” Which was a rich statement coming from a banker, especially when some of these big banks had subsidiaries in offshore tax havens. Still, this was how the game was played in Taxland, the powerful and the political parasites ganged up on the serfs.

The serfs were being taxed while alive and at death. They were prisoners without chains in a system called a political “democracy.” They voted in these political parasites that fed off them and then they were punished by them. One wondered if the serfs would ever rebel, or were they conditioned into accepting their tax slavery as “normal?” This then is Taxland where political parasites rule.

Stephen J. Gray
April 14, 2010.

Posted by: Stephen J. Gray | 2010-04-19 1:00:56 PM

The root of government corruption is the selfishness, fickleness, and apathy of the voter, who does not hold them to account. Stamping out government corruption by stamping out government is like curing a disease by shooting the patient. And what makes you think only public figures are corrupt?

Corruption will exist as long as greed and apathy exist, and both will outlast the human race. Greed is particularly unlikely to disappear, among libertarians least of all.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-04-19 1:25:25 PM

"Perhaps the only way to prevent corruption is to cut back on the activities of government". No argument there, just one of priorities. The reason nothing seems to change in the affairs of state even under a so-called conservative government is because of where one decides to cut back on such activities. The collective political IQ doesn't change because of leveraging power away from one party of parliamentary whores to another. The political IQ comes significantly from an education system which just happens to be almost exclusively an "activity of government" (and under monopoly union stewardship). A sacred cow that, until abandoned or out-competed, will ensure a future of sloth and mindless statism.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-04-19 5:06:53 PM

The root of corruption is money. How can government be free of corruption if special interests are allowed to give money to what ever politician will support their cause. And that is just one way money corrupts what should be a altruistic calling. If you are in politics for the money or power, get the hell out. You should be in politics with the desire to improve the lives of your charges, not to maintain the system so you and your buddies can get rich. And John is right on about the education system. Especially secondary education. It is becoming so expensive that only a portion of society can afford it. The government likes the dumb, they don't want people thinking to much. Education should be free and promoted for all.

Posted by: Steve Bottrell | 2010-04-20 12:59:29 PM

Steve, you're in no position to be lecturing anyone on the values of altruism. Why is it that when it comes to you, you're just a product of your environment whose choices have been preordained for him, but when it comes to anyone working for the government, the rule no longer applies? You think politicians are from Mars, and taxpayers from Venus?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-04-20 1:29:23 PM

Sorry, John, I have to disagree with you there. I cannot report that voters were significantly smarter, better educated, or more politically engaged before we started sending them to school. Universal male suffrage did not exist in the British Empire until 1918.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-04-20 1:33:50 PM

P.S. And Steve, both primary and secondary education are free, and compulsory up to Grade 10. Post-secondary education is free in much of Europe, but your marks have to be really good; generally only honours students get to go. College is not totally free in Canada, but the government does pay for about 80% of it, and admissions requirements are a bit more lax than in Europe.

I see no problem with these policies; in fact, they're a very sensible way of distributing a limited and costly resource. Post-secondary education is highly specialized, expensive, and not to be wasted on dolts.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-04-20 1:40:42 PM

"Education should be free and promoted for all."

With all due respect Steve, education will never be "free".

Posted by: Charles | 2010-04-20 2:02:04 PM

"I see no problem with these policies; in fact, they're a very sensible way of distributing a limited and costly resource."

Making something "free" is a good way to distribute a limited, costly resource? Are you serious?

Posted by: Charles | 2010-04-20 2:30:01 PM

Making something "free" is a good way to distribute a limited, costly resource? Are you serious?

Charles, I quite specifically stated that in Europe, only a limited number of students (the best) are allowed to go to university. So access is still restricted--just on the basis of talent instead of money. It's fairer than the North American model if you think about it.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-04-20 2:56:34 PM

"And Steve, both primary and secondary education are free, and compulsory up to Grade 10." "I see no problem with these policies;"

My apologies Shane. I thought "these" referred to both the secondary and post-secondary policies.

I also agree that a stricter criteria for post-secondary education is better than our current system in North America. It still doesn't address the problem of students studying subjects will not lead to employment, but an improvement nonetheless.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-04-20 3:16:54 PM


There are an infinite number of alternatives to the existing education system. If by "not sending them to school", you mean home schooling, then by all means, the superior results speak for themselves. And based on much of the literature from the 1800s, my guess would be that there was a higher level of literacy without the 12 years of PC daycare that we now enjoy.

But the point of my comment was not to advocate for "no education system" but one which didn't necessarily involve direct government involvement such as vouchers for example and definitely not one size fits all.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-04-20 7:16:31 PM

That the sign, "The Buffet is Open" has been up for decades. The only difference is the buffet table just keeps getting bigger.

Posted by: David K. Lambert | 2010-04-20 7:29:17 PM

I agree with David Lambert. At present both the voters and the government are responsible for this mess in my opinion. An improvement would be to have established term limits for politicians at any level of government, the total separation of special interests (including corporations, businesses etc.) from government along with an iron-clad restriction on government at any level of spending more than its income (revenue raised through taxation). I am not holding my breath for any of this to happen due to the greed of both politicians and the electorate.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-04-20 8:02:39 PM


1. Home-schooled children tend to excel because any parent dedicated enough (and with enough free time) to tackle such an undertaking is likely to be a hard-driving perfectionist. The parent also has a great deal more motivation to see these children excel than any teacher. Small class sizes (as small as one student) help too. But don't forget that homeschooling parents are still required to teach a standard curriculum devised by the state or provincial authority. Which brings up an important question: Is it the curriculum itself you object to, or the way it is taught?

2. There would be a higher level of literacy if our teachers spent less time in the political arena and more in the classroom. It would probably be higher still if teachers were sent to a dedicated teaching college instead of wasting four years getting a degree in who knows what. I can understand the value of having a high-school English professor with a degree in English literature, but a kindergarten teacher?

3. I'm not exactly sure how a voucher system is supposed to work (there are probably several varieties, especially in the States), but even if all the government does is hand out money to parents and say, "Go find a school you like," that still counts as government involvement. Also, don't underestimate the lowest common denominator--an enormous number of parents out there are almost completely indifferent to their childrens' schooling.

Our education system could certainly use an overhaul, but personally I think we would derive more immediate benefit from lifting the onerous degree requirements for new teachers, giving them two years of teaching college, and declaring them essential services to put an end to strikes.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-04-20 8:51:41 PM


I agree vouchers would probably be a better system than the current one, but it still doesn't really solve the problem. How would the government decide upon the size of the vouchers? I believe there would definitely be a bias towards ever increasing costs.

In addition, I believe it was in "Free to Choose" where Milton Friedman referred to stats which showed that school attendance is no higher today than it was before compulsory gov't education.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-04-21 5:15:44 AM

Charles, how were those stats compiled? Today about 90% of students finish high school, whereas when I graduated in 1987, it was more like 70%, and in 1900, it was 25%. The date education was made compulsory (and the compulsory minimum completion level) varied (and varies) from state to state, but Massachusetts enacted compulsory education as far back as 1852, and all states but Alaska had followed suit by 1918.

Anyway, we're getting off the subject.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-04-21 6:35:49 AM

Of course nothing is "free" in our society. But what I mean is, if you show the drive for education, it should be "free". How much money you or your family has should not be an issue. Of course that means it comes out of tax income, but of all the taxes we pay, one such as this would bother me very little. How much money is spent on bailouts, the war, wasted or "appropriated" by government that could have covered the cost of educating our next generation. I know, not another tax! But it doesn't necessarily mean that. I feel there is lots of money to do this, if priorities are readjusted. Government should be mainly focused on improving every Canadians standard of living, and not the game of musical chairs that it is now.

Shane, as usual you take my stance to the extreme. Of course you have choice, but your choices are in large part determined or influenced by your environment. This applies to politicians as well. It seems like politicians don't have to be exposed to Ottawa for long before their tune changes. The political environment needs to change.
Do I think the VP is perfect? Of course not, nothing is perfect. But I think it is something we should be working toward, not necessarily exactly as it is laid out now, as new ideas and technology will constantly alter the direction. Its headed that way anyway, I would just like to see it be a peaceful transition, rather than the mess I'm sure its going to be. Pretty soon, ASIMO like robots will be serving you coffee, taking your money, stocking the shelves, digging the ditches ect. Technology will make the current system obsolete, if it hasn't already.

Posted by: Steve Bottrell | 2010-04-21 5:37:19 PM

Coincidentally, TYT has an interesting vid today that's related to the education issue we are discussing. Have you heard the term "unschooling"? This is what I would be worried about as far as home schooling goes.


Posted by: Steve Bottrell | 2010-04-21 5:58:48 PM

1. Well, it’s good that an “education” tax wouldn’t bother you, Steve, because after health care, education is the single biggest government expense, over a quarter of the total budget. This, despite declining enrolment as the population ages. We already spend a staggering amount on education. If we are to spend more, we must take from somewhere else.

2. “Bailouts,” “war,” “appropriated”; really, Steve. You were actually doing not badly until you let go with this Leftist litany of big-government bogeymen.

3. If it is the government’s job to improve every Canadian’s standard of living, how can that government be small? This statement is at odds with both libertarian dogmas and your own past opinions.

4. Please, Steve, not the “I am but chaff in the whirlwind of fate” shtick again. Everybody was a teenager once; it’s an excuse for nothing. Politicians act the way they do because they want to stay in power. But what they have to do to stay in power is up to the voters, not them.

5. Don’t put too much stock in this golden future ushered in by new technologies, Steve. We’ve heard it all before; it’s been the clarion call of futurists for a hundred years. Back in the 40s, everyone was talking about how the atomic age would provide unlimited, clean energy and everyone would live in Jetson-esque neighbourhoods and bombing around in flying cars. (That was before it was widely known that nuclear fission produces highly radioactive waste, and that fissile isotopes are scarce, expensive, and make nasty weapons.) According to 70s futurists, we should today be driving fuel-cell electrics and have permanent bases on Mars. Somewhat more recently, we were promised “the end of work.” Hasn’t happened.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-04-21 10:45:56 PM


The determination of the level of a voucher needs to incorporate the thinking that everyone should have a dog in the fight. Just as 100% third party funding for health care destroys cost control incentives, school vouchers should not necessarily be universal but adequate to cover the entire cost for only the truly impoverished.

I was involved with a small rural private school run by parents of the students of only a few grades where we charged tuition of roughly half the provincial funding level while the province matched that amount as long as we were accredited. The province saved money and we ran a bare bones basic school with two teachers, no unions, no administration and with good results. Once our kids were through those grades the school ceased to exist.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-04-21 11:35:04 PM


I read "Free to Choose" quite a few years ago. I'd have to go back and see how Friedman did it. But you're right, this is way off topic.


If the vouchers were limited to only the truly impoverished, I could go for that. And only if they were run by the municipalities with absolutely no provincial or federal involvement.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-04-22 5:53:23 AM


Shane just put his finger on it. 25% of the budget goes for education. Why is it so expensive? It's because gov't has made if "free" for everyone. Demand goes to infinity and the gov't has no way to figure out how to price education (the only way to do it is through the profit/loss mechanism). So costs begin soaring and eventually the gov'ts run deficits. Gov'ts then print money to cover their deficits, spend it on education, and costs rise even more drastically. The only way to fix the problem is to attempt what John is suggesting, and perhaps after slowly attempt to migrate to a fully free market solution. If that doesn't happen (and it probably won't), the cost of education will keep sky-rocketing.

Posted by: Charles | 2010-04-22 6:07:06 AM

Charles, what do you mean, "The school ceased to exist"? You mean it closed?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-04-22 6:24:59 AM

"Charles, what do you mean, "The school ceased to exist"? You mean it closed?"

Where did I say that?

Posted by: Charles | 2010-04-22 7:22:31 AM

Charles, my mistake. It was John Chittick who made that post.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-04-22 9:05:24 AM


A clumsy way of saying once the students went through the two grades offered there were no parents interested in running it and it closed.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-04-22 10:08:45 AM

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