The Cost of Corruption

Senator Elizabeth Warren has made reduction of corruption a central plank of her 2020 presidential campaign. Whether or not we believe that she’s a girly reincarnation of Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, or Nelson Mandela, all of whom were avowed socialists, it’s hard to argue the point. The problem is that all but the corrupt agree that corruption is bad, but, apparently, it’s impossible to measure how bad.

We on The Other Side are inexorably drawn to unquantifiable problems; we cannot turn away. In this particular case, we decided to put one set of expert data side by side with another to see if we could find a way of estimating the cost of corruption.

The first of our datasets is published by Transparency International (TI), a not-for-profit organization devoted to the reduction of corruption worldwide. TI maintains an Anti-Corruption Hub that aggregates their research, authoritative studies, and statistically sound surveys on the topic of corruption. On an annual basis, they produce a Corruption Perception Index that ranks 170 nations around the world on a scale from 0 (purely corrupt) to 100 (breathtakingly honest).

In 2017, New Zealand was the world’s least-corrupt country with a score of 89 out of 100. The US tied Austria and Belgium for 16th with a score of 75. Other notables: Canada and the United Kingdom were tied for 8th with a score of 82, China was 77th with a score of 41, and our new pal Russia was 135th with a score of 29. (We can trust Vladimir Putin more than the sum of our intelligence agencies, right?)

If you peruse the Transparency International list from top to bottom, you’ll find that your wallet is less likely to be stolen in Chile than Mexico, your subsidiary’s managing director is less likely to be extorted by local police in Botswana than South Africa, and US envoys are less likely to be deceived by Iranian mullahs than Russian oligarchs. But the problem remains: Using TI data alone, there’s no way to estimate the cost of corruption. However, when TI’s corruption scores are aligned with the World Bank’s per capita income (PPP) data, a clear correlation jumps off the page. (See Note 1.)

The 20 nations with the lowest corruption (highest Transparency International scores) generated an average per capita income of $57,155 in 2016. The second 20 generated an average of $36,000, or 37% less than the top 20 nations, et cetera, as follows:

  • Top 20:   Average TI score: 81; average per capita income: $57,155
  • 21-40:     Average TI score: 64; average per capita income:  $36,000
  • 41-60:     Average TI score: 53; average per capita income:  $23,329
  • 61-80:     Average TI score: 42; average per capita income:  $15,236
  • 81-100:   Average TI score: 38; average per capita income:  $13,327
  • 101-120: Average TI score: 33; average per capita income:    $9,946
  • 121-140: Average TI score: 29; average per capita income:    $8,909
  • 141-160: Average TI score: 23; average per capita income:    $3,711

According to the best data extant, there is a palpable cost of corruption, it is plainly visible, and it is huge. Maybe we should care about how corrupt our nation has become in the last generation or so—and what’s going on in Washington right now.

Notes:

1) Gross National Product (GNP) is an estimate of the value of all final products and services turned out by a nation’s residents over a given period of time.

2) We urge you to visit the Transparency International website, especially if you’re planning to travel outside the US.

An Off-the-Wall Idea

The government shutdown rages on, but the wall or no-wall deadlock will surely be resolved before the number of federal-employee bankruptcies reaches 100,000. In the meantime, we on The Other Side thought we’d step back from the logic-free invective that passes for political discourse these days and take an off-the-wall look at the source of the problem: immigration overload.

Over the last 30 years, the demographics of Hispanic immigration to the United States have changed. Back in the 1980’s, the majority were young men seeking opportunity, legal or otherwise. Today, the majority of Hispanics at our southern border are families seeking asylum from corrupt, fiercely violent regimes in Central America. Some are so desperate that they’re willing to walk 2,000 miles to get here, with children in tow, with little or no money to pay for food and shelter along the way, and with no assurance that they’ll be admitted when they arrive.

In our books, that’s the Outer Ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell. (See Dante’s Inferno.)

It seems to us that two significant things have changed since the eighties. First, the violence and corruption in Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras have gotten worse. Second, smart phones have enabled their victims to see that there’s a better, safer place to raise their children, a “shining city on a hill” that happens from their perspective to be halfway to the Arctic Circle.

From the US government’s perspective, of late anyway, this looks like “The Invasion of the Immigrants.” Our border defenses have been overrun. Our visa application processes and asylum courts are overloaded. Our refugee integration agencies are so overwhelmed that imprisoning thousands of children didn’t make a dent.

Plainly, our system isn’t working, so let’s ask an off-the-wall question: Is there a more humane, passably affordable alternative to shutting our borders?

Our off-the-wall idea: Develop a second haven that’s less violent, less corrupt, and more closely resembles a democracy than Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Our candidate: Panama! It’s a lot closer; it’s a representative democracy with actual elections; and Panamanians speak the same language. The country is larger than West Virginia and sparsely populated, so there’s plenty of room.

Panama is hardly Denmark, of course, and there would be challenges, but let’s be solution–oriented. Let’s channel billions in foreign aid to Panama that we normally shower on our staunchest allies like Pakistan, Iran, Nigeria, and Venezuela. Let’s motivate US corporations to invest in Panama, and let’s subsidize the establishment of Panamanian immigration and assimilation systems. In other words, let’s pay Panama to help us stem the tide by creating a second haven.

Maybe $5.7 billion would be enough to get the ball rolling. Or we can wall off 2,000 miles of border (not counting Canada), mine 12,000 miles of coastline, and litigate this issue until the next Ice Age.

NOTES

1. The right of asylum was formalized by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The US government routinely ignores it.

2. Rene Descartes fled to the Netherlands, Voltaire fled to England, and Thomas Hobbes fled to France because the sovereign nations above provided asylum to persecuted foreigners. We got Ivana and Melania.

3. Circa 39 million people live in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. If 100,000 flee every year to the US or Panama or Uruguay or wherever, it will take more than 500 years for the four countries to empty out. (Their populations are still growing.)

4. If we were European, we’d be talking to Jordan and Botswana.

Fear of Immigrants

By Miranda Park

My parents fled to America after Seoul, South Korea’s capitol city, fell to the Communist North Korean army the third  time. I understand why so many men, women, and children from failed states are so desperate to find asylum here, but I also understand why so many Americans are afraid that millions of asylum-seeking immigrants will overrun our country. Here are the grim facts:

1) The US population increased by 1.1 million from July 2019 to July 2020, only 0.3%. One million were immigrants. No immigration, no growth. (Is that good for the US economy?)

2) There are about five million full-blooded Native Americans living in the United States. The other 98.5% of us are partial or full-blooded immigrants or their descendants.

3) First- and second-generation immigrants are less likely than the rest of Americans to commit crimes. (See Note 1 below.)

4) First- and second-generation immigrants added $2 trillion (that’s trillions with a “t”) to the US GDP in 2016.

5) From the years 2000 to 2011, unauthorized immigrants paid $35 billion more into the Medicare fund than they consumed. (See Note 2.)

In short, there are no rational arguments against allowing a million immigrants to enter the US every year, but there are strong economic and compassionate arguments for allowing it. Nevertheless, about a third of the American electorate, commonly known as Republicans, are staunchly opposed to immigration in general and Central American immigration in particular—because Joe Biden got 66% of the Latino vote in 2020, up from Hillary Clinton’s 65% in 2016. If Latinos vote, Republicans lose, but it’s not really that simple, is it?

Eighty-seven percent of Blacks voted for Joe Biden in 2020. Sixty-three percent of Asian Americans voted for Biden in 2020. Although a small minority, Native Americans may have put Biden over the top in Wisconsin and Arizona.

If minorities vote, Republicans lose. See “voter suppression.”

Notes

Note 1: Many of the figures above were excerpted from a 2017 report by the Center for American Progress, which sounds like yet another PAC funded by secretive billionaires, conspiracy theorists, or Russian oligarchs. It’s not, and all their figures are referenced. I urge you to visit their website.

Note 2: If you follow the train of thought from 5) above, then one of the best ways to fund Medicare is to let more immigrants into the US.

Fresh Faces

By Hugh-Griffin-Banerjee

Editor’s Note: Hugh wrote this article in 2018. The message hasn’t changed one whit.

If the latest polls are a fair indication, Americans of voting age are less than enthused about the legislative gridlock in Washington. According to a survey conducted by The Economist, 9% of Americans approved of Congress, 71% disapproved. In the same survey, 38% of Americans believed the country was moving in the right direction; 53% believed the country was on the wrong track. Both results correlated highly with a survey by Reuters.

Voters are registering their dissatisfaction at the polls:

  • In November of 2016, Donald Trump, hotelier, reality-TV star, and archetypal un-politician, was elected President of the United States. He defeated Hillary Clinton, a former First Lady, US Senator, and Secretary of State.
  • In a special election held in March of this year, 33-year-old Conor Lamb, a Democrat, defeated 60-year-old Rick Saccone, a Republican, in a Pennsylvania Congressional district that Donald Trump won by 20 points. Mister Lamb was a federal prosecutor but had no legislative experience. Mister Saccone was an eight-year veteran of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
  • In June, 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a publisher and educator, defeated 56-year-old Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th Congressional District. Mr. Crowley was a 19-year veteran of the US House of Representatives. (See Note 1.)

Inexperience, it seems, is in vogue, and that’s intriguing because it’s the opposite of what we value in the workplace. For a moment, imagine that you’re a businessman or businesswoman:

  • If you need a lumberjack, would you hire a florist?
  • If you need a ranch hand, would you hire a mechanic?
  • If you need a surgeon, would you hire a barber?
  • If you need a carpenter, would you hire an arsonist?

That’s not to say that we at The Near-Canada Gazette are steadfastly opposed to inexperience. Steve Jobs had no management experience when he founded Apple, neither did Larry Page nor Mark Zuckerberg. (See Note 2.) But Jobs, Page, and Zuckerberg were products of a well-financed, highly refined system that produces nine failures for every success.

By all means, vote for honest, donor-independent candidates with a strong sense of duty, respect for the rule of law, and an understanding of history––like Conor Lamb and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But remember what we got when too many voted for a half-cocked TV celebrity named Donald Trump.

Notes

1) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was purged from the New York voter rolls, thus unable to vote in the 2016 Democratic primary.

2) Steve Jobs was CEO of Apple for 17 years. Larry Page founded Google (now Alphabet) with Sergey Brin in 1998. Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in 2004.

Logic Abuse

By Hugh Griffin-Banerjee and Melvin Bass the Introvert (who’s an expert on the topic)

To the surprise of no one, some number of our right-of-center Congressmen continue to insist that the approval of a 90-day extension of the FISA warrant to surveil poor Carter Page was “politically motivated”, thus the process as a whole was irretrievably broken.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has approved more than 35,000 FISA warrants since its founding in 1978. It doesn’t matter whether the Carter Page warrant was “warranted” or not; the claim that the process is broken because a single error was made is, from a rhetorical standpoint, exactly like saying:

  • Charles Dickens was a hack because he got one bad review; or
  • Tom Brady is a second-rate quarterback because a wide receiver dropped one of his 10,600 passes; or
  • Honda makes unreliable vehicles because one of the 4.8 million they sold in 2017 had a broken dome light.

We could go on, but you get the picture. All of the above are examples of a rhetorical fallacy called “generalization from the particular.” Simply put: “If one of many is x, then all are x.”

Generalization from the particular is a tool commonly used by politicians of all stripes because it’s invisible to the ears of millions of gullible Americans. If we at The Near-Canada Gazette had our druthers, then at least one of the 3,000 pundits appearing daily on national TV would have used the trumped-up FISA controversy as a teaching moment so that fewer voters would be hoodwinked by this egregiously fallacious device.

To our knowledge, none of them ever have.

Note:

1) The discerning reader will have noticed that we mixed a metaphor. That does not mean that we mix all metaphors.