23 January 2014

Kleptocracy.

The leadership in China has managed to create a propaganda bubble of epic proportions: Chinese leaders are supposed to have a long-term view that puts the West to shame.

Alas, the secret view of China's leadership is considerably shorter-term: U.S. dollars in Swiss bank accounts, real estate in Vancouver, San Francisco, New York City, London, Geneva, etc. and whatever other assets can be scooped up with looted billions.

Corruption isn't just abstract: Much of China's building boom will not last a generation, much less a long-term timeline. This toppled tower is an apt metaphor for China's financialized crony-capitalist credit bubble and its shoddy corruption-riddled construction: [photo of tall apartment building that has fallen on its side].

All this, mind you, from communists whose predecessors killed millions telling us everything they did was for the people, the people.

Until recent years, wasn't our own country relatively free of this kind of corruption? Wasn't there something in our basic moral structure that at least kept this sort of skimming down to a dull roar? I dunno. LBJ entered Congress a man of modest means, did he not? Yet he became rich in Washington. Not on his salary, you can be sure. Harry Reid apparently acquired property in Nevada, transferred it to a silent partner, and then got legislation passed that increased the value of that property, at least according to the Rush Limbaugh gag commercial. Hillary made something like $99,000 out of an initial $1,000 trading commodities and magically managed to time some of her trades at within in millimeters of the top or the bottom of the day's trading.

Corruption will always be with us wherever there are government favors to be given out, and the more laws and regulations that restrict business the higher the price that business will pay for special legislative treatment. Still, things seemed more regular here in the U.S. In legal practice, I found the courts to be fair and the judges attentive to the requirements of the law. They were class acts, though one did cause some amusement one day when his toupee threatened to become airborne when the A/C blew across it. Still a good guy, natch. I can't imagine any of them being on the take.

I still think there's something there. Something in the remnant of the culture. The numbers of people living off the taxpayers' dime portends something bad, however. That's a different type of corruption we've seen since the New Deal struck a match to that tinder.

"Two Powder Kegs Ready to Blow: China & India." By Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds, 1/23/14.

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