During the administration of George W. Bush, the political left was rightfully indignant about no-bid contracts going to administration allies. The poster child for such corruption was Halliburton. Now that it’s clear that the administration of Barack Obama is doing the same thing, are we going to see the same protests? Or will those on the left look the other way?
The Los Angeles Times has an excellent story this weekend detailing how the Obama administration is handing a no-bid contract to a company controlled by a major Democratic Party donor. The contract is for a smallpox drug that hasn’t been tested on humans and which experts say isn’t even necessary.
When the company complained that the Department of Health and Human Services was resisting paying what it wanted to charge, senior Obama administration officials removed the government’s lead negotiator from the deal. Doesn’t this sound like serious political corruption to you?
The point here isn’t that Democrats are corrupt or that all Republicans aren’t. The point is that the system has incentives that lead to anyone in power doing the same things. Some Republicans end up doing it when they have power. Some Democrats end up doing it when they have power. And here’s the thing that’s hard for some people to understand. If we elected a libertarian government (or a socialist government or a communitarian government or any other kind you can think of), it would happen anyway.
This isn’t a problem of political ideology. It’s a problem of fallible, imperfect humans who follow their self-interest after they’ve been given power over other people. We know that people are ultimately going to follow what they see as their own interest. If they don’t have any power over others except what others voluntarily give them, that’s not a problem. But when we give them coercive power over others, it’s a big problem. So it’s the system that’s the issue, not just which people we put in charge.
If you are locked into the “red vs. blue” paradigm, you’re constantly going to see corruption when the other side is in power, whichever side you’re on. But you’re going to tend to be blind to examples of the same thing when your side does it.
Break out of the belief that it matters whether Demopublicans or Republicrats are in power. Accept that the corruption will exist as long as some people have coercive power over others. Accept that the only fix is giving people the freedom to make their own decisions — so they can walk away from corrupt people anytime they want to.