Sunday, May 28, 2006
Needed: A little honest corruption
Over the past two days I've been quartering Louisiana, getting pretty much everywhere except into the New Orleans area (sorry, just not enough time). I've been talking to lots of people in that time.
So I'm sitting there on the front porch of a double-wide, with a bunch of folks recovering from a large potluck. A late-middle-aged farmer with a large belly and a sandy-red pirate's mustache asks a guy from South Louisiana how he got through the hurricanes. "Pretty well", said the guy from South Louisiana, "we didn't even lose any roof because when we remodeled our house, we had them put on a metal roof that was screwed on. But the port didn't do well, it's still pretty much a mess." Pretty much out of the blue, the farmer says "They ought to just give all the money to the parishes and let the local folks do what needs doing." I agreed -- "the locals are the people who know what needs doing, you just can't micro-manage something like that from Washington or even Baton Rouge."
A South Louisiana oil field employee tells me about his local mayor, "Sure, a little money ends up in his side pocket from time to time. But he gets things done. We didn't have a single downed power line in our town when the hurricane hit because he got every town worker out there walking the lines at the start of hurricane season and clearing away any branches and reporting any trees that might fall on them."
Of course, it's not all peaches and cream. The former purchasing manager of a mid-sized city reports, "I saved the city over a million dollars by buying surplus refrigerators, desks, and chairs that the military was selling for pennies on the dollar when they closed the local military base. The moment a new mayor came in, they threw all that stuff out and went and bought brand new stuff from an administration crony for $1.9 million dollars, of which over $190,000 went into his mistress's pocketbook as a 'sales commission'."
So yeah, Louisiana government is corrupt. But for the most part, it's an honest corruption, where you basically are getting the government you're paying for -- the trash is picked up, the cops are on the streets, the fire department is responding if your house is burning down, the sewers work and water comes out the tap when you turn it on (well, except in New Orleans, but when 90% of the city was destroyed and the city has no money, that's what happens). Meanwhile, that Washington D.C. corruption has trash in the streets of New Orleans that's left over from Katrina, because the bozos currently in Washington D.C. try to do Soviet-style central management of what is, in the end, local needs. Just as the Supreme Soviet would decide "For our next five year plan, let's make more steel!" and you'd have shoe-less steel workers for the next five years because, err, nobody thought about shoes in that central plan, central planning of disaster recovery results in "let's talk about housing!" while trash piles up because nobody thought about trash when doing that central planning.
Central planning didn't work for the Soviet Union, and it doesn't work for the United States. When it comes to disaster recovery, give the money to the locals. They'll fix things up. Sure, the local politicians might skim a percentage to their mistresses and Maldives bank accounts. But at least it'll be honest corruption -- the kind of corruption where things are getting done, because the people doing the things are the people who live there and thus have every incentive to get it done. And generally this "honest" corruption will be far cheaper than the dishonest corruption of Washington D.C., where the money instead goes to corrupt cronies of the President or Vice President and maybe, in the end, a few pennies on the dollar actually make it down to the local level to actually do stuff, and the stuff doesn't get done right because the people doing it don't live there and thus don't give a shit.
I find it hilarious that an administration that is the most corrupt U.S. government since the administration of Ullyses S. Grant would lecture the state of Louisiana about corruption... sure, Louisiana is corrupt. But at least their corruption is the honest kind of corruption, the Mayor Daley of Chicago kind of corruption, where sure some money gets skimmed from time to time, but things get done.
- Badtux the Travelin' Penguin
Posted by: BadTux / 5/28/2006 06:40:00 AM
What a well-written post. Thanks for the local perspective. You are right about it being honest corruption. The other plus is that since it is local, a lot of that money goes back into the local economy. Not so much with Washington.
# posted by Debra : 28/5/06 8:26 AM
Great post. You are right that central planning is wrong and we need to get the money down on the local level. The small towns south of Lafayette still look like crap.
# posted by Ole Blue The Heretic : 28/5/06 9:01 PM
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