The Gratification Business: People who value money are unlikely to become politicians. But corruption remains endemic. Why?
Most politicians are honest. The greedy tend to be drawn to the financial sector or arms dealerships rather than public service. But politicians still struggle to curb corruption - and their mixed motives don’t help. For twenty years, they have bought into the idea that deregulation will be the tide that lifts all boats. But while executive pay has increased significantly, politicians haven’t seen large increases in their own earnings. Many aspire to belong to the elite circles of the rich - an aspiration that they cannot openly acknowledge, lest it lead to rumors of greediness and cold-heartedness.
For many politicians, the gratifications of their work are severely delayed. They travel, family relationships and friendships suffer, they are expected to smile, represent, persuade, greet strangers with affection and display humble decency on a daily basis. And when their official duties end, many are expected to work through correspondence, or socialize with their constituents and fellow party members. The contradictions in this laundry list of character traits are all too obvious. And the financial rewards are not sufficient to compensate for the burden of the politician’s lifestyle. Many are putting their faith into future prosperity, and try to secure lucrative consulting jobs on the side. In their mind, it’s a legitimate way to monetize their experience and networks.
Media discussions of corruption don’t help, either. Their moralizing tone prevents a neutral discussion. Many of us are justifying our own nagging and bourgeois apathy by pointing the finger at the juicy stories of corruption in the daily tabloids. It is not surprising that many politicians now expect their profession to be branded as a “dirty business,” and accept that they’ll be marked for life.