Blago style corruption — how rare?

John and I were unable to do our show for Pajamas Media today due to the constaints imposed by our day jobs. One of our topics was going to be: how common is Gov. Blagojevich’s type of corruption? John thinks it’s extremely rare; I suspect it’s not.

This difference in opinion may reflect our roots. John’s are in wholesome jurisdictions — South Dakota and squeaky-clean Minnesota. Mine are in Washington, D.C. (home of Marion Barry) and Maryland (home of Spiro Agnew and Marvin Mandel). I also have family ties, through my wife, with various foreign countries where bribery, if not a way of life, certainly does not shock the conscience.

The question is an empirical one. The fact (reported by Scott this morning) that Blagojevich’s conduct shocks “even jaded journalistic hacks whose beat has been the [Illinois] statehouse for years” who find his designs “unprecedented,” that’s bound to be better evidence than my intuition. But if one strips away a few wacky schemes, the essence of Blagojevich’s misconduct seems to be selling favors including an appointment to office. That doesn’t strike me as unprecedented.

People enter politics in order to get something out of it. The most common thing they are seeking, I imagine, is power. The desire to do good and the desire for monetary enrichment are probably battling it out for second place. Those who are in it mainly for the power, or in order to “do good,” can also be corrupt, but the extent of their corruption is not likely to approach Blagojevich’s. But wouldn’t those who are in it mainly for the money be likely to act as Blagojevich did, albeit less recklessly, if they found themselves with the same kind of opportunity?

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