Walter E. Williams
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Sometimes I wish there were a humane way to get rid of the rich. Without the rich for whipping boys, we might be able to concentrate on what's best for the 99 and a half percent of the rest of us.

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, with about $60 billion in assets each, are America's richest men. With all that money, what can they force us to do? Can they take our house to make room so that another person can build an auto dealership or a casino parking lot? Can they force us to pay money into the government-run retirement Ponzi scheme called Social Security? Can Buffett and Gates force us to bus our children to schools out of our neighborhood in the name of diversity? Unless they are granted power by politicians, rich people have little power to force us to do anything.

A GS-9, or a lowly municipal clerk, has far more life-and-death power over us. It's they to whom we must turn to for permission to build a house, ply a trade, open a restaurant and a myriad of other activities. It's government people, not rich people, who have the power to coerce and make our lives miserable. Coercive power goes a long way toward explaining political corruption.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich's hawking of Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat; Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel's alleged tax writing favors; former Rep. William Jefferson's business bribes; and the Jack Abramoff scandal are mere pimples on the government corruption landscape. We can think of these and similar acts as jailable illegal corruption. They pale in comparison to what's for all practical purposes the same thing, but simply legal corruption.

For example, according to the Miami Herald, by March 2008, the powerful Florida Fanjul sugar family had given over $300,000 to politicians and political committees. They didn't fork over all that money to help politicians to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution. Like businessmen who approach Charlie Rangel, Rod Blagojevich and William Jefferson, they give politicians money because they want a favor in return -- namely import restrictions on sugar so they can charge Americans higher prices. In the case of the Fanjuls, and thousands of others buying favors, they are engaged in legal corruption.

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Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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