One of the things that keeps amazing me is how cost-effective corruption is for those who want to buy political favors. It costs peanuts! Analysts differentiate between petty corruption, the third world official fleecing his customer for small change, the level of street level bureaucracy and service provision, and grand corruption that takes place at the policy formulation end of politics but also covers executive decisions made at the highest levels of the public sphere. But that labeling evokes an image of low-level service providers taking in small change and grand corruption being about big money. And that is wrong. Sure it is true sometimes. The Suharto, Marcos, Mobuto arrangement is about real money.
But often grand corruption is about petty money. Now, I understand the kleptocrat‘s kinda money like I understand organized crime (and don’t understand, emotionally that is, beating someone up just for the fun of it). And the linkage of big-money-creates-big-mess has an intuitive logic to it. The small-change-creates-big-mess scenario is much harder to understand. But apparently that’s the way of the world.
A telling example is the recent vote of the US Senate against the (already watered down) Democrat proposal for tougher background checks on fire arms buyers. That vote is overwhelming interpreted as a win for the National Rifle Association (NRA), one of the the most powerful lobby organizations on Capitol Hill. A decision that has nothing to do with public opinion and all with the power of the NRA. And what is that power of the NRA? Well it’s got a budget of 200 million US$ of which it spent 0.5% on contributions to the campaigns of candidates for Congress in 2012, both Republicans and conservative Democrats. 0.5% is 1 million US$ across all these candidates. Do the maths! The politicians in the world’s most powerful nation can be bought for zilch. And the mess that creates is obvious.
As always, an anti-depression pill to finish: