Most Everything Governments Do Should Be Regarded as “Corrupt”

Allegations of corruption have recently been levied against Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau (since resigned) for not recusing themselves from discussions about awarding a contract to a charity which has financial ties to their families.

Notice that the wrongful act—corruption—is completely focused on the names of the state’s decision-makers, not on the actual decisions. Thus, the purpose of the state’s rules is to create a perception of legitimacy for state activities so long as the behavior of politicians and bureaucrats remains within the boundaries which they define. Moreover, these boundaries do not consider the collecting and spending of taxpayers’ money, per se, to be an act of corruption.

The definition of corruption from Merriam-Webster (emphasis added): dishonest or illegal behavior especially by powerful people (such as government officials or police officers).

Now let’s consider some things which we’re told are totally not corrupt and perfectly fine.

The state monopolizes the provision of police and judicial services. These bureaucracies are enriched, yet they fail to solve a majority of violent crimes. But the state refuses to return any of the tax dollars—tax dollars taken by coercive means—to citizens, as compensation for its failure to provide all of the services it promised in exchange for those tax dollars.

In Canada, the state implemented universal healthcare with a dishonest claim that this was necessary because many poor people lacked access to healthcare. Healthcare bureaucracies have been enriched, as healthcare has become the largest item in provincial budgets. However, once again, the state refuses to return any of the stolen tax dollars to citizens as compensation for its failure to provide all of the healthcare services it promised.

And then there is the usual political lobbying process in which interest groups provide “campaign contributions” to politicians in exchange for political favors.

This, of course, could easily be called bribery, although politicians have defined it as perfectly legal.

Part and parcel of all this is the state’s regulatory apparatus (of similar magnitude in Canada as in the US on a per capita basis), which supposedly exists to protect the safety and welfare of consumers from unscrupulous corporations. Yet somehow the regulatory machine manages to affect a massive transfer of wealth from workers and consumers to politically influential corporations. Thus, the 1 percent gains at the expense of the 99 percent, thanks to the politicians who are on the receiving ends of these legal bribes.

Those are just a few of the thousands of examples of state corruption, which Frédéric Bastiat refers to as legal plunder.

We must not allow the state, and its sanctimonious cheerleaders in the mainstream media, to bastardize the definition of the word “corruption.” If Justin Trudeau, Bill Morneau, and all the other politicians and bureaucrats start “obeying the rules,” this does not eliminate corruption. These rule breakers are not the problem. They are merely symptoms of the disease. The disease is legalized corruption, with the state’s forced taxation, complete lack of accountability, and its predisposition to grant itself legitimacy through democratic elections every four years. As Albert Jay Nock wrote:

The interests of the State and the interests of society…are directly opposed.

The State is not…a social institution administered in an anti‑social way. It is an anti‑social institution.

State power has an unbroken record of inability to do anything efficiently, economically, disinterestedly or honestly. (emphasis added)

The truth is that those who are tasked with serving the public interest are well positioned to serve whatever interests they choose because the rules they create to control their own behavior are far too lax. And why wouldn’t they be lax? When state officials have the power to make their own rules, you can be sure they will give themselves wide latitude.


  • Following a 23-year career in the Canadian financial industry, Lee Friday has spent many years studying economics, politics, and social issues. He operates a news site at

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