The need to expose and punish misfeasance in office

The removal of public officers for misconduct is a healthy, natural, and normal process. It is an indication that checks and balances are working. The removal of a president or prime minister, the impeachment of a judge, or the jailing of a legislator does not shake the foundations of society—it is the foundation of society. It does not cause the people to lose confidence in the system of government—it increases confidence in the system of government, by showing it has the ability to repair itself.

Constant scrutiny and investigation is necessary

Constitutional measures must ensure that public officials are constantly obliged to explain their decisions, justify their actions, defend their integrity, and divulge their activities. In a free country it is not the people who should be harassed but their leaders. When it comes to investigating politicians, warrants for searches, bugging and the like should not require probable cause. The very fact that they hold office is probable cause.

Punishment must be severe

It is therefore of the utmost importance to the security and happiness of any state, to punish, in the most exemplary manner, all those who are entrusted by it, and betray that trust: It becomes the wisdom of a nation, to give ten thousand pounds to purchase a head, which cheats it of six-pence.

—John Trenchard. Cato’s Letters No. 20, Of public justice, how necessary to the security and well-being of a state, and how destructive the neglect of it to the British nation, Saturday, March 11, 1721.

Corruption by public officials must attract severe penalties. That a crime was committed in abuse of public office should be deemed an aggravating circumstance in sentencing. Crimes related to national security, such as revealing defense secrets, taking bribes in relation to defense procurements, and from knowingly accepting bribes from a foreign government should attract the death penalty.

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