Hamilton: Ends versus means: The crux of creeping corruption
The financier, Simon Cameron, (1799-1889) famously said, “An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.” While that may be true of some of today’s elected officials, Americans should not expect such loathsome behavior on the part of FBI agents or high officials in the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Unfortunately, on-going Congressional investigations are revealing that once hallowed institutions, such as the DOJ and the FBI, have been corrupted.
The revelations that some FBI agents have been trading inside information to reporters in exchange for ball-game tickets, drinks, meals, and other favors, raises the question: How does corruption start? Before we get to the answer, readers who want to know what gifts are forbidden to federal officials should consult: 5 Code of Federal Regulations 2635 201-205 and 301-304.
Some people think of political corruption as accepting laundered campaign contributions or taking cash under the table and hiding it in a frozen food locker, as was done by a congressman in Louisiana. But there is another, much more subtle, form of political corruption that finds its genesis in the idea that “the ends justify the means.”
Graduates of any of our government intelligence schools know they will not get very far in their careers without embracing the idea that “the ends justify the means.” While that might be okay while working abroad, gathering intelligence to protect our homeland, worship of “the ends,” while working inside the United State, can lead to illegal and unconstitutional results.
For example, let’s say you are a government official who firmly believes that a particular person should be the President of the United States and, at the same time, you firmly believe that a certain other person should be prevented from becoming the President of the United States and, if elected, that person should be prevented from serving effectively.
What do you do? Do you take the Constitution and the Bill of Rights into your own hands and decide that the “ends” you desire are so righteous that you can use any “means” to attain them? Or, do you set personal preferences aside and do a Sergeant Joe Friday with “just the facts ma’am”?
Another example: Let’s take the issue of “sin taxes” on alcohol, tobacco, and certain mind-altering drugs. The “self-talk” of some public officials might go like this: Okay, I know that alcohol is often the cause of traffic accidents, bar fights, domestic abuse, suicides, and other violent crimes. But think of the “good” we can do for roads and schools with all that tax money. Yeah, I know tobacco shortens lives and kills people. Fortunately, smoking is less accepted now. Smart people do not smoke tobacco, and Darwinism is killing off many who do. Marijuana? I know it is a gateway drug. Still, that’s a lot tax dollars. Hopefully, it won’t be my kids who get hooked. Other kids? Well, too bad. Yeah, I know local voters do not like their residential areas involuntarily rezoned as commercial to accommodate the overnight rental business. No matter, we need tourism dollars.
And so, normally decent public officials let “ends” rule over unsavory “means,” and go sliding down corruption’s slippery slope.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. In 2015, he was named an Outstanding Alumnus of the University of Nebraska. Dr. Hamilton is the author of The Wit and Wisdom of William Hamilton: the Sage of Sheepdog Hill, Pegasus Imprimis Press (2017). “Central View,” can also be seen at: http://www.central-view.com.
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