Classic Kleptocracy

Throughout the ages political leaders have used tried and true methods to enrich themselves at the expense the of people.  This page has a list of some of those methods.

Above the law:  This brazen technique has political leaders and bureaucrats literally exempt themselves from laws and thus create a privilege or special status that they enjoy.

  • Congressional staffers are allowed to use insider knowledge to special advantage, when trading in the stock market (see rollcall).

Turf Wars:  Sometimes a political bureaucracy will make decisions that protect their turf even though it is costly to tax payers.  From their standpoint they get to increase their “empire”, which gives them more prestige, power and income.  All the downside goes to the tax payer.

  • The Tappen Zee Bridge was built across the Hudson river in the 1950’s.  The location chosen was the second widest point.  This made the construction costs higher and subsequent toll costs ($5.00) higher than needed.  This was done so that a new tolling agency, The New York Thruway Authority could collect the income stream, rather then the existing Port Authority that had jurisdiction over a more economical location.  In the better location the river is only 1 mile wide (compare with 3 at the selected location) and the river bottom allows for easier construction.  A good audio story was done by NPR.

The Boondoggle:  Political leaders sure like to spend other peoples money.  One reason it is fun is that it is so enriching.  You can get campaign contributions, jobs for family and friends (see influence peddling), and get treated like a VIP with trips and ribbon cuttings.  Boondoggles are also great for trading.  If you vote for my boondoggle, then I’ll vote for yours.  Fun for everyone but the tax payer and competition.

  • What costs more than all the US manned space flight programs and yet has no benefits?  The F35 boondoggle!

Influence Peddling:  This is truly a classic.  Friends and family of bureaucrats take compensation to advocate on behalf of special interest groups.  This is overt advocating; this is the subtle kind.  This is the “hey honey take a phone call from XYZ group.” in the bedroom or the “Uncle Bill, ABC group sure needs help from your committee.” over holiday dinner.  Good ways to mask the compensation is by hiring the friends law firm or just paying to be on the board.  Having a powerful Rolodex pays, because government has so much tax payer money to spend.




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