How invariably officialism becomes corrupt every one knows. Exposed to no such antiseptic as free competition—not dependent for existence, as private unendowed organizations are, on the maintenance of a vigorous vitality; all law-made agencies fall into an inert, over-fed state, from which to disease is a short step. Salaries flow in irrespective of the activity with which duty is performed; continue after duty wholly ceases; become rich prizes for the idle well-born; and prompt to perjury, to bribery, to simony.

—Herbert Spencer. Over-legislation, 1853.

Corruption goes undetected in the bureaucracy because no one is motivated to uncover it. There is no owner who frantically searches for the leak and plugs it. In the private sector, procurement is driven by price and quality alone; in the public sector it is driven by relationships. This is a species of corruption that can only be addressed by reducing government activity. Experience shows that tender boards and all other manner of controls put in place to address it are useless. The very nature of bureaucracy—people spending other people’s money—is corrupt in itself, and no manner of controls can cure it.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove