Legal and Illegal Sleaze Ruthless Criticism

Corruption, bribery and cozy relations – the rule of the exception to the rule:

Legal and Illegal Sleaze

[Translated from Landplage February 2000]

Everything has its price in a free-market economy; only politics is not supposed to have one. Someone who is sworn in as a politician of the common weal of the nation and officially has to win the success of national capitalism is supposed to be above having his weighty decisions bought by the money of individual capitals. Nevertheless, it is permissible, and even promoted in taxation, that “business” donates certain amounts of money to the political parties. Private money may flow in fat sums to the politicians, but this should not violate the old rule that a cash payment does not result in a return. This contradiction is dealt with by the legal distinction between legal and illegal maintenance of good relations between economics and politics: An exact clause differentiates precisely between permissible support of a party by tax-privileged donations and impermissible influence of elected office holders by bribery. Legally, these cannot be told apart, not on their merits.

The well-being of the nation is the success of capital

A bourgeois state always has a particularly intimate relationship with its economy; the competitive enterprises within the scope of its rule should make as much profit as possible. This constitutes the growth of the national economy and adds to the wealth of the nation. This is the basis for the power and strength of a state. Promotion of economic development, economic policy and ensuring local competitiveness are long established and recognized state goals of the first rank for modern states.

For this reason, politics is made the essential condition for the competitive success of its economy. Its own agencies are busy inspecting which financial privileges should be granted and which incentives are to be created to stimulate the “proclivity to invest”: “subsidies” to make a whole industry competitive; “structural assistance” so that profitable business takes place in backwards corners of the nation; “investment aid” so that start-up companies also accumulate wealth and improve business prospects; “tax exemptions” when a company reinvests its profits in a profitable business; “state orders” to meet infrastructural and military needs. If necessary, the state undertakes large-scale projects, even bringing whole branches of industry into being. And, finally, diplomacy frees the way for its capitals to do business in foreign countries.

The state decides on the conditions for competition …

That the state is massively involved in “the economy” and promotes it where only it can is the most understandable thing in the world. The state as guardian of the common weal is always an advocate of its economy, its representatives sits on advisory boards, and the corporate lobbyists are cordially invited to besiege the political decision-makers. In short: state and economics are always “sleazy.”

Of course, all varieties of economic policy influence the competition of the capitalists among each other: Political decisions set conditions for competition and the assignment of lucrative orders from the state directly decides who gets business and who doesn’t. Thus the state intervenes in the competition of the capitalists, preferring the enterprises that promise to be more successful and thereby at the same time disadvantaging the others; national economic policy is thus an important “factor” in the business success of the competitors in the private-economy. Which orders from state are assigned to whom is always a hot issue for the various companies whose competitive position is molded by the state’s legislation.

… and the entrepreneurs want to buy the state’s decision

Because conditions for competition and success in competition depend on the political decisions of the state, the question arises for the profit-seekers how they are to recommend themselves as the best choice for an order or a subsidy. Companies continually court the favor of state decision makers in order to obtain better competitive positions and profitable business. This is actually not at all dishonorable, but is the respectable business of professional lobbyists.

Of course, corporations do not limit their efforts to winning the favor of politicians to beautiful words, good relations and noncommittal gestures of goodwill. In their monetary wealth they have the power in their hand to effect “what is to be done” in the political sector. “He who pays the piper calls the tune” is a principle of capitalism, and therefore the money of the entrepreneurs is always available for their political friends. Political decisions have a price and prudent companies “cultivate the landscape” on a long-term basis and systematically, with all political parties. So a company will set up a special endowment in order to continually keep politicians in a happy mood with friendly allowances. And in reverse: resourceful party functionaries show themselves to be true experts in the procurement of large and small donations – so their party can finance its propaganda apparatus; with its expensive publicity campaigns, the business of political will formation is no different. This is also not illegal, but is precisely regulated: Donations are permitted in every amount, desired, and tax deductible.

Illegal promotion of national competitiveness and legal corruption – easy to confuse

Obviously, the legal and everyday methods of influencing power are not sufficient for a snappy company executive; ultimately, he wants to assert himself in the competition ahead of the others who pursue the same market for donations. Here starts the happy activity of bribery. He tries to buy state decisions beyond the permitted limits. The state forbids this by law in order to guarantee a public bidding process or so that a subsidy is given strictly according to objective principles of cost effectiveness or the worthiness of an industry or company. So by tax incentives the state happily promotes the patronization of the parties and ensures that every amount of money they receive is immaculate, and finds it despicable if the representatives of the party align their decisions with the interests of their financiers as elected statesmen; the state interest in the effective promotion of the national economy should not be thwarted by being bought-off by its individual parts. However, because “the economy” consists of large individual companies, the placing of an order or the promotion of economic development can only refer to them. How can those who are eligible for promotion and those who aren’t be objectively distinguished? The question as to who is to be promoted is inevitably always a political decision. So the state interest in optimal economic promotion takes a very strange course: the question whether a decision is proper or not, whether it meets the constitutional criteria, is made a completely abstract question. A legal formalism regulates what is recognized as a party donation and what is discredited as an undeclared big donation or even private intrigue. Bribery or corruption is simply determined by the law, which defines it as an illegal way of influencing politics and separates it from the legal influence of politics by donations.

Clearly, this distinction is not found in the content of a decision; proving that a politico-economic measure is contracted of corruption is virtually impossible. So a politician can keep his donors secret and does not have to fear in the slightest that someone might discover that it must have been this or that capitalist. Corruption becomes known if the suitcases full of money, private jets and other allowances are shown to be provable. However, a criticism of the policy that was bought is not then due; instead, the busted politician gets his scandal.

The bourgeois state’s use of corruption scandals

The definition of corruption as an offence against the law has unavoidable advantages for the political culture of a democratic state. If state decisions are subject to the criterion of whether they were arrived at constitutionally, then every state decision is acceptable if it only meets this criterion. Criticism of state decisions is permitted only in the name of its correct legal process. Thus every scandal which raves on about some case of corruption has an effect that benefits the state by diverting the attention of the democratic subjects away from the condition of their interests and instead interests them only in the formal correctness of their being ruled over: This by itself ensures that scandals can be large and frequent; they are guaranteed to never diverge into a bigger accusation against the rule of the bourgeois state. The criticism remains limited to the loyalty of the politicians. With the deprivation of power of the black sheep with their black money, confidence is restored in politics as usual, no matter what it requires of its citizen. They could just as well say of their interest in party donations and corruption: legal, illegal, it’s all the same shit.