Current Events

A week of Corruption

As an economist with libertarian leanings, last week was a great one to display the imperfection of government action. Below are some of the lowlights:

  • Scooter Libby was convicted for leaking the identity of a CIA agent (Washington Post article).
  • A Justice Department audit found that “the FBI broke the law to secretly pry out personal information about Americans…agents sometimes demanded personal data on people without official authorization, and in other cases improperly obtained telephone records in non-emergency circumstances.” (NPR)
  • Are politicians men (and women) of principles or simply people seeking power? Newt Gingrich’s hypocrisy of criticizing Bill Clinton for having an affair while having one of his own would give support to the latter argument (Boston Herald).
  • A British newspaper claims that Afghanistan’s new anti-corruption chief has been arrested in the past for being a drug dealer (The Independent).

Another reason I delve into the issue of corruption is that I just finished reading the informative and fast-paced book titled The Private Life of Chairman Mao by Li Zhisui. The book is Dr. Li’s memoir of his time spent as Mao Zedong’s private physician between 1954 and 1976. Throughout the book, we see that Mao’s rhetoric is to help the common people but his actions belie his political statements. Health care quality for top government officials was equal to or better than that received of most individuals in the Western world, but most peasants had little access to any quality care. Through the Great Leap Forward, Mao decided that rapid industrialization would be accelerated through the manufacture of steel from backyard furnaces. Unfortunately, these furnaces produce very low quality steel, that was practically unusable. Further, with so many farmers diverted from their agricultural labors to produce steel, the country experienced a severe famine between 1958 and 1960.