Paul Jacob

So, Americans outside Illinois have no reason to gloat. The fact that their governors haven't been arrested does not mean their governors are not also dirty. Just, perhaps, more clever.

Of course, some politicians are honest. Most people don't get into politics for the money. They get into it to "do good." Inevitably, politics is run on money, and money often becomes the only gauge some people can find for "goodness."

And, my goodness, does this standard have awful repercussions. The longer a person stays in strategic loci of power -- that is, in office, or in bureaucracy -- the more that person will see funneling money through government as the solution to every problem.

If all you have is a hammer, everything soon looks like a nail.

Some folks are more resistant to this education in nail-pounding than others. This is a matter of personal psychology, I suppose, as well as personal morality. It helps if you make a public stand to resist the process. Self-term-limiters like Dr. Tom Coburn come to mind (as does the fact that public support for congressional term limits is at an all-time high).

It also may help to know something of economics, for instance -- that is, the economics that recognizes limits to knowledge. To understand the complexity of that fabled beast, "the economy," and then to realize that no prediction can be certain helps inoculate oneself from schemes to control it all with varying amounts of power fueled by increasing amounts of money.

Governor Blagojevich surely deserves the hammering he's received in recent days. But it is important to hammer home a much broader point. Power corrupts. Politicians (being human, only more so) are susceptible to this corruption. Good government requires that citizens have practical ways to nail down the power of politicians.

I bet there are politicians who worry that Bagojevich's latest bit of corruption might cause citizens to look more closely at all the rest.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.