Thursday, May 17, 2007

Endemic Corruption at the Top in Business and Politics, and the Unfairness of the System

Never in the history of the world has so much been earned by so few; and never in the history of the world has there been so much corruption.

Nowadays, we hear about corruption at the top all the time; indeed, almost on a daily basis, we hear some new titbit about the goings on of this CEO or that, or this politician or that. Political appointments are handed out based on nepotism and cronyism. Fat salaries are paid to people who have little experience, and sometimes even little understanding, of the positions to which they have been appointed.

We hear about this sort of thing all the time: one day it’s the slush fund that BAE is alleged to have set up, the next, it’s the enormous salary raise awarded to one’s fancy woman, yet another, we hear about the extraordinarily extravagant lifestyle of the gay head of Head of British Petroleum (BP), Lord John Browne, the socialist peer, who, it has been alleged, ran that oil company as though it had been his private enterprise, and who financed an extravagant gay lifestyle beyond any normal person’s wildest dreams: private jets to take the gay couple to the place or country of their whim and choosing; three-thousand-pound bottles of claret for lunches; trips to the Salzburg festivals; and so on and so forth. All, of course, on company expenses. Lord John Browne took the term ’gay lifestyle’ and gave it its full meaning! Pity he didn’t think of giving the term its full meaning out of his own pocket. Indeed, so gay was his lifestyle that his gay French-Canadian lover, Jeff Chevalier, couldn’t keep up with Lord Browne and is said to have had to go into therapy!

The evidence coming to light about the goings on at the World Bank apropos of the shenanigans of Paul Wolfowitz paints a depressing picture of corruption at the very top, in places one would hope would be corruption-free. Fat salary increases to one’s bed partner should surely be left to one's colleagues to decide; further, where such vested interests lie, they should be handed out by those other people on the basis of merit, and merit alone.

Then we have all those millions which are said to have been laundered in Switzerland to pay members of the royal family of Saudi Arabia in return for contracts and extensions of contracts pertaining to the Al-Yamamah contract which Mrs Thatcher initiated many years ago. It was a very large contract even then; now it is colossal. Funny that the name of the contract - Al-Yamamah- has such a whiter than white name; for in Arabic, the name means ‘the dove’. Doves, as we all know, have such a pure, often white, connotation. There seems to be little white and pure about the goings on behind the scenes between BAE and the Saudi government. Anyone would think that those already fabulously wealthy Saudi princes needed even more money!

The funny thing is that there are hundreds and hundreds (maybe even thousands and thousands) of ex-employees of BAE who have been treated shabbily. BAE is famous for its bad treatment of any employee who happens to fall foul of their autocratic management style. How many innocent ex-employees of BAE have had their careers washed up because of BAE, I wonder? How many lives has BAE destroyed? How many sacrificial lambs have there been since the inception of this so-called Al-Yamamah contract? One can only hazard a guess.

Then we have the Bush-Saudi connection. The relationship between these two parties seems most unhealthy to me and to many I know. Bush keeps harping on about terrorism and the need to win the war against it. Have you noticed, though, that he avoids calling that same terrorism by its proper name: Islamic terrorism? One can only wonder why.

The sad thing about the ‘war on terror’ is that Bush is all for beating it on the one hand, but on the other is allowing the Saudis to pump untold millions, nay billions, into the US to finance the propagation of Wahhabi Islam, known to be the most pernicious brand of Islam around. On this score, Bush speaks with bifurcated tongue. So Islam-friendly have his policies been over the time he has been in office that Islam has grown in the States like never before. Doesn’t the president realise that Islam is out to destroy the US constitution? Does he not realise that Islam and democracy are totally and utterly incompatible? Does he not realise that Islam is as much a political system as it is a religious one? Can Mr Bush really be that naïve? Or is there something else going on behind the scenes which we, the ordinary people, just don’t get to hear about?

Then we have the vast inequalities of wealth created here in the United Kingdom by no less than a so-called socialist government under Tony Blair’s watch. It has recently been reported that the top echelons of society have seen their riches increase threefold in the past decade! And they call that socialism! That’s ‘Champagne socialism’ if ever I saw it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am no friend of socialism. Socialism is one of the worst forms of government ever dreamed up by any political thinkers. But nor am I in favour of a form of unbridled capitalism which treats people unfairly. It cannot be right for foreigners to be allowed to come to this country and not be taxed on their earnings from abroad, when ordinary people, you the voters, have to be taxed on any small amount of money you might be able to earn from that self-same source.

In London, there are many who have to slave away for a full week for as little as £400, and often less, whereas there are the fat cats who earn upwards of £46,000 in that very same week!

If the corruption I have referred to is allowed to continue, then we should not be surprised if one of these days the people will turn on the people who govern them. Nor should we be surprised if the pendulum will swing in the favour of socialism in the years to come. Even the very best of parties come to an end, sometime. Our politicians should be aware that people’s tolerance is not infinite. It used to be said that poverty was the breeding ground of communism. In those days, they were speaking of absolute poverty, of course. But I should like to add that relative poverty could also one day become the breeding ground of communism. We should all be aware that this is a distinct possibility. Fairness still counts for something. No sensible person wants to live in a political system that treats the rich differently from the poor. Any country that legislates so much in favour of the rich at the expense of the poor is heading for political turmoil. Those odious systems of government – socialism and communism – are not dead; they are simply lying dormant. And in some countries, most notably in Venezuela, we can see extreme socialism beginning to raise its ugly head even as I write this.

Capitalism is by far the best political system around; though it is far from perfect. The greatest weakness in capitalism is that it plays to man’s greedy nature. In years gone by, this wasn’t such a problem, since in years gone by, the influence of the Church and Christianity were far greater: they acted as a counterbalance to man’s greed, and checked people’s lack of principle, thereby keeping corruption, nepotism, and cronyism in check. Alas, in today’s increasingly secular world, there are few such checks and balances. The Western capitalist world has become a ‘free for all’: you take what you can, when you can.

Corruption, nepotism, cronyism, unbridled greed – these are the sad realities of life in the twenty-first century.

©Mark Alexander


Anonymous said...

An excellent read.
Now we see unhindered globalisation enabling the mid-east States to plunder Western business with trillion dollar war chests, scooping up everything from banks to soccer teams.
This may be the scorpions sting in the tail. And we are wearing open sandals.

Mark said...

Anonymous, thank you.

Yes, I fear you are right. The open, globalized West is ripe for take-over. The highest bidder gets the prize, regardless of consequences.

Always On Watch Two said...

The West is going down to the pursuits of greed. Do we have any Western leaders with integrity?

Mark said...

Few, if any, Always. Few, if any!