Our Corruptocrats and Their Eager Acolytes

Driving from Barcelona to the French border recently, I was struck by the excellence of the Spanish infrastructure—far superior to anything in Britain. The road surfaces and signposting were better; and there is vastly more litter along any hundred yards of British highway than there was along a hundred miles of Spanish. Either the Spanish behave better in the first place, or they are better at cleaning up after themselves. I suspect the former.

No doubt the comparatively recent development of the Spanish economy accounts for some of the difference in the quality of the infrastructure; and Spain was long in receipt of subsidies from the European Union. But Britain was long subsidised, in effect, by its own revenues from North Sea oil and gas, and now has very little to show for it. Its infrastructure is creaking, breaking down and dirty. Public debt as a proportion of GDP is approximately the same in Spain as in Britain, so indebtedness is not the explanation. 

Anthony Daniels appears in every Quadrant.
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Spain has the second-largest network of high-speed railways in the world after China. Its 2500 miles of network cost about half as much to build as the projected cost of the 200-mile line from London to Manchester: in other words, each mile in Britain will have cost (if it is ever built at all, which remains doubtful) twenty-five times more than each mile in Spain. Why?

No doubt the fact that Spain is much less densely populated than Britain and has vast open spaces is part of the explanation, but it cannot explain all the difference. Most of it is probably attributable to the far greater levels of corruption in Britain than in Spain.

This corruption is of a peculiar kind. It is not the straightforward bribery that we normally think of as corruption. It is still a fact that most people in Britain go through life without ever having to pay a bribe to anyone, and it does not even occur to them to do so. In the context of world history, this is no doubt remarkable. No doubt also there is, as there has always been, corruption in high places, as for example in the awarding of contracts; but most of the population does not inhabit high places.

The corruption of which I speak is of a far more insidious and destructive kind: it is an endemic moral, intellectual and spiritual collapse. This kind of corruption is wholly obstructive, unlike the more traditional kind which at least removes obstruction to some productive activity. In the last analysis, it is also financial, insofar as it is the means by which an incompetent and greedy nomenklatura class has been created, with a much larger class of apparatchiks as hangers-on. The worst of it is that the corruption wrought by the nomenklatura and its associated apparatchiks is entirely legalised: indeed, it is often legally required. There are scores of quasi-governmental agencies ready to put their oar in over any project, causing delay, raising costs and promoting inefficiency. These agencies claim to act in the public interest, or at least some part of the public interest; but the real goal is private enrichment. It is perhaps worth mentioning here that public service pensions, far more generous than private ones, have created trillions in future obligations that are not generally included in the figures for public debt. 

A neighbour of mine who has been trying to convert an eighteenth-century house back to a dwelling after it was used for commercial purposes and was then abandoned has been obstructed by useless bureaucratic requirements, often in contradiction with one another, each costing thousands of pounds to comply with. He would never try to do anything similar again; he feels that he has been looted by “experts” who have often taken thousands of pounds for work that took them minutes and that was inessential in the first place. Multiplied by a thousand or a million times, the drain on, or discouragement of, enterprise or effort is obvious. The economy becomes a zero-sum game in which the nomenklatura and apparatchik class desperately devises ever-new obstacles to maintain or even increase its slice of a shrinking, or non-expanding, cake.

Wherever one looks in modern Britain, one sees the effect of this corruption. For example, a public inquiry is being held into the way the Covid epidemic was handled, and the lessons to be learned therefrom. Its estimated cost is £250 million, but it may be far higher in the end (it usually is). All too predictably, in the present British cultural context, it has turned into a kind of soap opera and slanging match, more to amuse than to enlighten. According to Dr Carl Heneghan, a distinguished epidemiologist, it is failing to ask the right questions, often displays a startling ignorance of basic notions such as cost-benefit analysis, and concentrates more on tittle-tattle than on substantive matters, such as the effects of lockdowns and other measures taken. The one benefit of the airing of tittle-tattle is that it reveals to the public the very coarse cultural and intellectual level of our political and bureaucratic class, a deficiency that is unlikely to be corrected in the foreseeable future.

The corruption of life in Britain in the interests of what Milovan Djilas, the Yugoslav former communist, once called the New Class is illustrated by the creeping change in the nature of supposedly private charity. Most people in Britain still believe that a charity collects money from private donors, which it then expends to some charitable object. They fail to realise that many charities are in effect departments of the public “service”, deriving the majority, sometimes even the entirety, of their funds from public money and promoting policies that are at the very least discussable.

Recently, for example, I looked into the finances of such a supposed charity, one of whose objects was to reduce the public stigma of drug addiction and addicts. This, of course, suggests that such addiction is a morally neutral phenomenon, in the way that taking an afternoon walk is morally neutral. One might be forgiven for thinking that the object of the charity was actively to promote drug addiction by removing from the public mind the notion that it was deleterious.

That, however, is not the point: the organisation presented itself to the public as if it were a charity in the traditional sense. Only about 5 per cent of its revenue derived from private giving; 84 per cent derived from various public sources. Most of the rest was derived from propagating its views, largely to public employees. 78 per cent of its expenditure was on the salaries of its staff, including their pensions.

Some years ago, I wrote an article about a charity that derived the entirety of its funds from government, and whose sole activity was to lobby the government to do more (by further expenditure, of course) to end child poverty, and whose outgoings, apart from a small amount spent on propaganda, were entirely devoted to staff emoluments. To end child poverty is highly desirable, of course, for no one would want children to live in poverty; but to call the organisation a charity was, I wrote, so misleading as to constitute a lie. The government was lobbying itself at public expense.

The “charity” in question wrote an angry reply, the burden of which was that it had always complied with the government definition of a charity, which is something that I had never denied. I did not state, or even imply, that the “charity” was breaking the law.

My point, of course, was that the legal definition of a charity was itself morally corrupt and corrupting, and that what the reply indicated was that the “charity” believed that the government had the right to change the common meanings of words, to the obvious advantage of itself and a nomenklatura and apparatchik class.

The corrupting effect of the law in Britain has been profound. To take only one disastrous instance: the relatively new tort doctrine that a person whose injuries were caused to a substantial or non-trivial extent by negligence is entitled to the same compensation as if they were wholly caused by it. In conjunction with the doctrine that psychological harm is in principle no different from physical harm, the stage is set for the corruption of a population, the destruction of fortitude as a desirable trait, and the search for undeserved reward. Not coincidentally, the British have become world-champion shirkers, who, like the nomenklatura, seek only to feed at the trough filled by a decreasing number of others.        

Eat, drink and be merry, is the motto of the nomenklatura, for tomorrow we are bankrupt.

Under his pen-name Theodore Dalrymple, Anthony Daniels recently published the collection Neither Trumpets Nor Violins, co-written with Samuel Hux and Kenneth Francis (New English Review Press), The Wheelchair and Other Stories (Mirabeau) and These Spindrift Pages, a collection of literary observations and reflections (Mirabeau).

12 thoughts on “Our Corruptocrats and Their Eager Acolytes

  • DougD says:

    Australia’s no different. Think government funded Environment Defenders Office litigating to stop fossil fuel projects approved by the same government after requiring compliance with a maze of regulations. The corrupt quid pro quo for the EDOs public funding seems to be that it will not oppose the massive environmental destruction caused by the government’s favoured renewables projects.

  • pgang says:

    This article nicely summarises the creeping malaise of Godless socialism in the dead West.
    As far as charities go, even the old Catholic standard of offering 10% of one’s income is well exceeded through our socialised taxes, paying people less fortunate than us to remain unproductive, or feeding a socialist health system that exists only for the sake of existence. Therefore I feel no moral obligation to offer up more money to any so-called charities.
    As for the starving kids overseas, the government looks after them with our taxes too. Job done.

    • pgang says:

      Did I forget to mention that I also charitably pay for the education of other people’s children whose parents contribute nothing towards it?

    • lbloveday says:

      It was made clear to me in a Catholic School, and Catholic Churches, that The Roman Catholic Church does not require the paying of tithes, but they ask for everyone to give as much as they can.
      Here’s another’s explanation from Quora:
      There is no concept of tithing in the Catholic Church. We have instead the concept of caritas — charity — in which we give time and money (alms) to those who need it. I’m not obligated to give even a single penny to the Church, but I am obligated to caritas. Jesus tells us in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats as to what awaits us should we fail in this regard.

      • William says:

        From my reading, it seems that ‘tithes’ insofar as the Catholic Church was concerned, were paid by the monasteries to the archdiocese. The tithing of the ordinary people seems to have been a Protestant thing, although I did read that in some areas in France before the revolution there had been tithes. The ordinary people have ‘Peter’s Pence’, which they are refusing to pay, given the Vatican scandals.

  • Paul W says:

    There’s another corruption: lawful corruption.
    Those who protest mandatory vaccination are shot with rubber bullets and assaulted – for public health.
    You can’t have pepper spray or a sword in Victoria and if you do you will have an assault rifle pointed at your head – for public safety.
    It’s illegal to be armed in a way that may cause fear but that somehow never applies to the most violent and well-armed gang of all – those who are supposed to enforce the law but instead break it or get exemptions from it all the time.
    Modern Australia is only a decade or two behind Britain. The same sickness is already evident.

  • Daffy says:

    A family friend once related to me her position to recommend funding to a ‘charity’ that saw its main role to criticize government spending in a particular area of ‘human’ services. The CEO of the charity sought funding from my friend. She gleefully related how she was able to decline to support the application on quite sensible grounds…grounds which hitherto had been glossed over by the circle of pals that this CEO was involved with in that same agency. Victory was sweet. One up for the taxpayer, she declaimed. So, it happens here too…and in spades it would appear.

  • padraic says:

    Most of the well known pathetic activist groups in Australia (including well known international ones) have set themselves up as “charities” and are the sort that are in bed with the Environmental Defenders Office. The more “woke” industry groups boast on their websites and invoices to their customers how much they give to “charity”, so when one made a request (usually ignored) for online comments on my interaction with them (i.e. paying a bill!!?? – big whoop) I said I was so pleased that they were using their profits for charities instead of lower prices for their customers and higher dividends for their investors that I have decided in these budgetary times not to donate to charities any more as they were doing it for me. The thing that stood out for me in the above article was the following comment – “78 per cent of its expenditure was on the salaries of its staff, including their pensions.” I understand that this is not confined to charities who derive their income mainly from governments but is an issue in many of those who derive their income from public donors.

  • Lytton says:

    A point re emoluments in ‘charities’ is that sometimes/often they are remarkably high, when the charitable nature of the organisation is considered. This is usually hidden away in some obscure corner of an annual report. It’s all on the public record, they say, but good luck in finding the details easily.

  • Simon Mundy says:

    My impression is that fortitude has, at best, become unfashonable in large sections of the populations of the Anglosphere. Whether it has elsewhere in the West would be for others to say.

  • Solo says:

    Psychological harm can sometimes be worse than physical harm. I understand what you’re meaning in that trivial psychological issues or malingering add to the financial burden of corruption, but genuine PTSD from a workplace – especially things like first responders etc, can definitely harmful to the person and their family.

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