Corruption in the First World is Subtle


Part of the spirit of this blog is showing ways to give you unfair advantages, especially those rich people use. I am not advocating for corruption. It is anti-capitalist, anti-fair market, and obviously unjust. But you need to understand the tactics of those who hold the power.

This post is a bit different. It’s about showing you what corruption looks like.

Corruption isn’t sliding a crisp $100 across the table to a government official so he expedites your paperwork. That’s true in a third-world sense, or maybe in the Soviet bloc when you’re trying to get your family to West Germany.

First-world corruption is different. Modern politics is a series of exchanged favors and group loyalties.

How the Corruption Hustle Usually Looks

You intern on someone’s campaign, they get you a job in their office afterward, you build your network while in that job, you help out someone else (in the same party), maybe get a consulting job, serve on some boards until your reputation is built up enough to mount your own campaign.

In the middle of this process, you do lots of favors for people when they can’t repay you. Years later, when a friend of yours needs something done, you call in a favor (because you’re exchanging a small favor from an old friend for a much bigger one your new friend will owe you).

This happens at all levels—from city council members approving building plans for literal bribes to the more sophisticated book sales and speaking fees.

The city council shmuck got caught because he tried to do corruption the old-fashioned way and thought they could literally just slide him a check for tens of thousands of dollars.

The high rollers succeed because they’re willing to wait years for repayment for favors.

Why do political candidates write so many books? No one is buying Hillary Clinton’s 167th memoir. But she writes them because that’s a legal way for the Democratic Party to compensate her for doing “party work” AKA putting other Dems in positions of power. Same reason why Bernie Sanders would endorse other Democrats who are in corporations’ pockets—he’s a party player, wants to run again in the next cycle without getting shut out, and as a consolation, the party will buy up a bunch of books to “distribute” to party donors.

How to Win Friends and Influence Policies

What about those who aren’t running for an office? Here’s today’s example: Janet Yellen, former chair of the Fed and current Secretary of the Treasury.

Big banks are buying up neighborhoods, positioning themselves to take bailouts in case of market collapse, and the Fed is changing laws on the fly to accommodate banking needs (which is why the Reverse Repo ceiling was raised this year).

In 2019 and the beginning of 2020, Yellen received $7,256,600 in speaking fees (see government documentation for yourself). She halted her speaking engagements after taking her role as Secretary of the Treasury so as to remain “above board.”

Here’s what you should ask yourself: why would extremely profit-motivated financial institutions want to give away millions to someone for a speech?

Simple. It’s either an investment or payment in arrears.

She either worked with these financial institutions while chair of the Fed and they are paying her back, or they knew she would be in a position of power again soon and saw the chance to invest in a good relationship with her.

“This post is political and I don’t like it.” Okay, but this is the real world.

I’m not a partisan and I’m not registered with any political party. Every party has good and bad folks. I just want you to know how the bad folks operate.

The (Good) Last Word

In the interest of not just showing something bad and leaving it at that, I’ll end on a positive note.

Patience is a virtue. Favors pay off. Doing something for “free” for someone now can pay off in dividends years down the road.

One friend of mine does nothing but introduce worthwhile people to each other all day. Because of this skillset, he’s now very well-connected politically, is making multiple 6-figures as a salary, and is candid enough to tell me about how the world of politics really works.

Do favors for others. Most won’t pay you back. That’s fine. You’ll reap your reward eventually if you favor others consistently enough.

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