There is so much about the breaking Jack Abramoff scandal that should sicken every American it's hard to know where to start.
Many in the Washington establishment are shaking in their Gucci shoes wondering who will be nailed now that the once high-powered lobbyist has pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud. Abramoff will wind up with a lighter sentence in exchange for fingering those who were part of his influence-peddling circle.
Perhaps we should hope first that the right conclusions are drawn about the nature of the problem and the nature of the solution. It's difficult to be optimistic given what I read and hear so far.
Already there is talk in Washington about "lobbying reform legislation." Washington has seen many scandals over the years, followed by a lot of reform legislation that was supposed to close the gaps allowing improper influence and corruption. Yet, despite a lot of laws about what lobbyists can and can't do, along came Abramoff to show what a truly talented, creative, and energetic liar and charlatan can accomplish.
There are two themes here to remember.
First, excessive government is a big part of the problem. The more of our lives that we turn over to politicians and bureaucrats, the more we expand the scope of the culture of power and influence that emerges from this. When we address corruption with new laws, we just make government bigger and therefore expose ourselves to more, not less, of the same problem.
Second, the more we choose to believe that our problem is not enough laws, the more we distort the truth that the problem is corrupt people, not a corrupt system.
There is a great incentive to write new laws. After all, politicians always want to be perceived as "doing something." As the saying goes, for a man with a hammer everything looks like a nail. Politicians' hammer is legislation and they're always ready to use it. Scandals provide great opportunities for those who appear to not be involved to be self-righteous and heroic. The white horse that politicians will always jump on is a new law designed to "fix" the problem.
We should also recall that one of the principal platforms upon which Abramoff was generating the millions with which he was enriching himself and peddling influence was his representation of Indian gambling casinos.
The Indian gambling industry is another grotesque product of ill-conceived social engineering. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act passed by Congress in 1988 was supposedly going to generate new economic opportunities for the American Indian community by staking out a piece of regulatory and tax protected turf for casinos operated by tribes.