I’d thought it a made up word. One I’d heard before, mostly as a lark. Yet is has a Wiki:
so it must be real… or at least more real than I’d expected. That usually means I’m “late to the party”. Which would not surprise me, as I’m prone to expecting moral and honest behaviour from folks, and that just isn’t in a kleptocracy…
Kleptocracy, alternatively cleptocracy or kleptarchy, (from Greek: κλέπτης – kleptēs, “thief” and κράτος – kratos, “power, rule”, hence “rule by thieves”) is a form of political and government corruption where the government exists to increase the personal wealth and political power of its officials and the ruling class at the expense of the wider population, often without pretense of honest service. This type of government corruption is often achieved by the embezzlement of state funds.
Yes, I’d heard the word before. Yes, I’d not thought it real, but a bit of sarcasm. Now I think perhaps it is the stage of government that we have now entered.
What lead me to this thought?
Well, several things came together. One news report that only 1 in 8 attends church on a regular basis anymore. Another show (Stossel) showing a Trade Lawyer, talking about taxicabs and the rules that prevent entry into the trade (“medallions” in one city cost over $1,000,000 for the privilege of driving a taxi) and this taxi trade lawyer was nearly gushing about how happy he was to have helped to make dozens of laws in that city to restrain competition in the Taxi Industry. Another news bit about a guy in Idaho where some logs had jammed a county drain, flooding part of his property. The county gave him permission to clear the trash, and the flood drained. Then the Federal Government told him he could not build a home as he was on “wetlands”. He sued, and won. The Feds proceeded to ignore that he won and say they owed $37,000 PER DAY for every day they had not left the property. And more.
This ‘cross correlated’ with the recent change of Eminent Domain that says any government agency can just take your property and give it to someone else to “develop it” (giving you whatever passes for ‘fair price’) if that agency thinks they can get more tax revenue out of the development. (That one was a Supreme Court decision).
Stories of Drug Dealers in the Black Market just thumbing their noses at the notion of taxes and laws. Folks collecting unemployment benefits for a couple of years, then going on disability pay for the ‘stress’ of not finding a job. Obama mandating that you MUST buy what he wants you to buy (be it insurance, or through taxes, “green energy” as noted in a comment here by Tckev
The “image” just kind of formed itself. All these folks just “ripping off” for themselves, whatever they could get. Lawyers abusing the process of governance for their own enrichment. Senators and Representatives doing Insider Trading (and making it legal for themselves) to rip off whatever they could get. Obama and his cronies passing laws and dumping $Billions (or is it $Trillions?) of budget and stimulus money into the pockets of friends to rip off for themselves, whatever they could get. Soros and Maurice Strong being a bit more crafty about it, making entire social movements, companies, and “NGOs” for the purpose of ripping off for themselves, whatever they could get.
I realized that in some subtle way I’d felt it happening. Over the years I had become more resentful of always following the rules when those around me did not. Lately I’d taken to cutting a few corners on them myself. Not to the extent of a ‘rip off’, but just not caring so much. Then the news story ran that 1 in 3 folks would soon be “unbanked”. They would not have banking services for one reason or another. (Poor credit rating, illegal status, no job or no history, or just no money). That these folks were often entering a shadow economy of their own.
Just what is this pattern, writ large? It is the slide of an entire country into Kleptocracy.
Not just the ‘Caveat Emptor’ of prior years applied to unscrupulous sellers, nor even the ‘self dealing’ of prior years. Something more wide spread and perverse. Before, those things were known to be morally repugnant. Now the notion is one of entitlement to the Rip Off, and if you aren’t getting any, you are just dumb. That cultural artifact of American Morality is reaching a tipping point.
We knew of such countries in the past, but they were always places far away and dangerous. Back alleys of Bangkock. The wrong side of Tijuana. Odd Latin American Tin Pot Dictatorships and French Quarter pickpockets. Even The Chicago Machine and it’s corrupt form of politics (as Chicago was an alien town of Mobster History and Fame…) The odd corrupt ex-colony in Africa. Places where you just expected to drop 20% or so of your payments for “favor” with the local authorities.
But what I see now is that this is already here in America and likely has been for many years. Just dressed up in a Business Suit and with the title of Honorable Gentleman and Esquire… In the sweetheart Union Deals. In the thousands of laws and regulations churned out each day; and the growing hoard of people who just ignore them. From the Deputy DA who busts drug dealers on one side of town, then scores his drugs from the OTHER dealer (perhaps with a kickback from the higher prices?…) to the hospital billing “Private Insurance” customers for the part of the bill that Uncle Sam decided to not pay on the Medicare patients.
We are presently, and have been for a while, Living In Kleptocracy. I just had not noticed it quite so much.
The final bit that made it ‘gel’ was a story about an author who had a book:
From the bestselling author of Losing Ground and The Bell Curve, this startling long-lens view shows how America is coming apart at the seams that historically have joined our classes.
In Coming Apart, Charles Murray explores the formation of American classes that are different in kind from anything we have ever known, focusing on whites as a way of driving home the fact that the trends he describes do not break along lines of race or ethnicity.
Drawing on five decades of statistics and research, Coming Apart demonstrates that a new upper class and a new lower class have diverged so far in core behaviors and values that they barely recognize their underlying American kinship—divergence that has nothing to do with income inequality and that has grown during good economic times and bad.
The author was being interviewed and made a point of telling one bit of the book. That a surprising percentage of White Men between something like 35 and 50 had simply stopped working. They didn’t even bother to look. Some kind of malaise had caused them to change. In prior years, that was the Prime Working age and folks hustled, or at least felt guilty if they didn’t. Yet now the ethos was changed. Guys just said “stuff it”.
I was thinking how that would effect the country, all those folks giving up on Honest Labor. Then I realized I was one of them. I’ve not looked for a job in months. I didn’t feel like it, really. Let someone else work…
I’ve pondered a bit about “why”. Partly it is the economic times. Partly it is that there are so many impediments to getting a job it’s less attractive. Paperwork is greater, one city job I looked at involved finger printing, complete biographic proctoscopy, credit check, and a minor novel of an interrogation / application. I just let it pass… Who needs that much grief? And as in some or most cases, government applications processes are public data, your application may be on line… No, I thought, too much trouble… just to APPLY for a chance at a maybe…
Requirements have become more nutty too. I hold a State of California Lifetime Teaching Credential at the Community College Level. I’ve got decades of computer experience. You’d think that might mean I could teach at a Community College. Checked at the local one. They demanded a Microsoft Certification, current, to teach. That’s a couple of thousand a year to maintain, from my pocket to Microsoft. ( I got the cert, one of the last “lifetime” type issued before they, too, went to mandatory constant schooling just to stay in place; in about 1984 or so) So my carefully planned retirement strategy of teaching at the local J.C.s is down the tubes. The “barriers to entry” are just too much bother (even though, in theory, I’m already past them).
So here I am, being one of the folks just starting The Slide away from the traditional culture of Self Reliance, Dynamic Can Do, and no barriers to entry; and into the Guilds, Red Tape Quagmires, and Kleptocracy of Modern America.
I’m not well suited to it. I find myself still encumbered by a strong Moral Compass ( wonder if I’ll need to ‘fix that’ or if it can just be ignored?…) I find myself grossly inexperienced at graft, corruption, self dealing, crony-ism and, frankly, not having any empathy for my fellow man. I’m sure I can learn how to do it, if I practice enough and can find a role model… Heck, I’m already about 1/2 way to apathy and sub-rosa despair. I’m sure with a little work I could add callousness and moral ambivalence. (it will take longer to cultivate greed and a full on sense of entitlement warped up in a total lack of any morality beyond “Can I get it?” Even then, I’ll have to work hard to learn how to cultivate what looks like a friendship but is only mutual exploitation. I’ve seen others do it, so it can’t be all that hard…)
After decades of being told I’m racist, sexist, the oppressor, and being fleeced for trying to do the right things and working hard; well, I’m starting to feel like maybe it would be more fun to let someone ELSE do all that and I can just collect a handout and drink beer… Why heck, might even have folks stop telling me how horrible I am and trying to take my “stuff”; if I just become a bum.
OK, confession time. I’m only feeling those things a little bit. Just enough to “understand” what’s going on in the culture and “channel it”; but not enough to let it ‘be real’. Just enough to understand why a bunch of White Guys in what ought to be their prime earning years might just quit and watch TV instead. (Or even run a blog…) But not enough to really be accepting that THAT is where my country will really end up.
But still, I’m now seeing more clearly how ever more folks may just choose to ‘throttle back and take a rest’, perhaps for a long time. When you see that “the game is rigged”, it’s pretty easy to simply ‘choose not to play’. When helping gets you called names, it’s easy to holler that you need help instead. And after a while that kind of thing can become a habit.
I suppose I ought to be asking “How to stop this?” and “What can we do to fix it?” and even “Where are thing better?”
But not, I think, today… I’m feeling a bit lazy today… Maybe tomorrow….