Corruption destroys liberty

The immense briberies practised by Julius Caesar were sure and terrible presages of Caesar’s tyranny. It is amazing what mighty sums he gave away: Caius Curio alone, one of the tribunes, was bought into his interest, at no smaller a price than half a million of our money. Other magistrates too had their shares; and all were bribed, who would be bribed.

—Thomas Gordon. Cato’s Letters No. 27, General corruption, how ominous to the public, and how discouraging to every virtuous man, Saturday, April 29, 1721.

Minor corruption leads to major corruption and vice versa. The bribe-taking inspector and policeman are small blots that coalesce into a pervasive rottenness that permeates societies such as Russia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and South America. To foster a fair, law-abiding society, all government officials must act with exaggerated probity in discharging their sacred trust, which is no less than the prosperity of every man, woman and child in their country.

Corruption must be sought out and severely punished

So that as a power to do great good, does naturally include in it an opportunity of doing much evil; so those who are in the possession of power, as all magistrates are, ought, above all other men, to be narrowly watched, and checked with restraints stronger than their temptations to break them; and every crime of theirs ought to be more penal, as it is evidently more pernicious, than the same crime in any other sort of men.

—Thomas Gordon. Cato’s Letters No. 75, Of the restraints which ought to be laid upon public rulers, Saturday, May 5, 1722.

Permanent institutions for fighting corruption, such as police internal affairs divisions and independent anti-corruption commissions, are essential. A society should not hesitate to employ harsh anti-corruption measures such as using agents provocateurs to uncover corrupt officials. Corruption is a recurring cancer that should be ruthlessly attacked wherever it appears, even in the mildest forms.
A person who bribes a private sector employee is a common criminal, but someone who bribes a government official is tearing apart the very fabric of society. Both the bribe-taker and the bribe-giver should receive exemplary punishment. The higher up the chain of responsibility a public officer is, the more severe his punishment should be.

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