Thursday, February 23, 2006

Bribery ad absurdum

With thoughts of Jack Ambramoff, Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham and other assorted characters in my head, a thought experiment occurred to me. How potentially enlightening it would be, I thought, to invent an imaginary world where the covert became both overt and not just accepted but mandated and then ask people what they thought. I can think of few better days than today, when reports of Bob Dole of Viagra fame lobbying for Dubai Ports hit the wires, to unveil my thought experiment, Bribery ad absurdum.

Imagine a nation whose citizens believed in the sanctity of the auction process, by which I mean, any decision could be purchased, whether made by the lowest or the highest in society. Nobody thought it odd that Presidents, Senators, Congressmen, Judges, Corporate Heads and even baggage handlers all had websites with E-Bay like auction software selling each and any decision they might make during the day.

Want to meet the President?, no problem, simply go to the web site and out bid anyone else who wants to meet with him at your chosen date. Want to block some legislation?, no sweat, just hop on some of the Congressional Committee members' web sites and outbid those who want the legislation passed. Want to get something through customs?, pull up the appropriate baggage handler's web site and place your bid. It would be a Central Bankers dream, the emergence of the great god Money. The cause of humanity, at least in that nation, would be money.

This nation, again in your imagination, for nothing so absurd could ever really exist, would find itself in a world of other nations who did not share this desire for money. The citizens of those other nations would be concerned about various other things.

What do you, my 4 readers of this blog, think would happen in a nation run on that principle in a world where, outside of that nation, money was not the first and ultimate cause?

If you think a nation run out that principle would not fare well, consider which principles might be more helpful.

Perhaps it would be better to live in a nation run on principles other than to the highest bidder go the spoils. Oh well, I can dream, can't I?


jeff poppenhagen said...


I am not sure that my first concern about said nation would be how it would fare in a world where other nations "did not share this desire for money." I think that my first thought would be that the highest bidder (or group of bidders)could literally strip everyone else of all private property and personal liberties.

What would be better? A nation built around the concept of inalienable rights which would be centered around the concept of natural law (which I assume does exist). Sadly, the U.S. in the past hundred years has moved, from something that was close to this, towards a nation that is much closer to what you describe in your thought experiment.

Dude said...


I'm not even sure the few could strip the many of most of their property outright without a substantial collapse of the system. Rogoff and other have argued that Rome collapsed because the Romans kept expanding slavery to get things done, rather than allowing more to be free and own property. Honest cooperation, what a neat idea.

I agree with your prescription. The first thing one could do is teach people what it means to believe in something bigger than the self. No easy task, that.

kevin said...

I thought Rome collapsed because citizenship was expanded, commerce moved away from the core and no one came to grips with the budget deficit. The military ceeded power..

Dude said...


There are many theories in the scholarly commmunity attempting to explain Rome's collapse from Gibbon's Deistic view, towards which I lean, to Jared Diamond's materialist-response view and many in between. Hegel would tell you, if he were still alive, Rome collapsed on its many contradictions. Rogoff's theory is but one of many.