Legal bribery

Politicians making money

As Steven M. Davidoff, a professor at the Michael E. Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University, reminds his readers, legal bribery is endemic to elections-based systems (admittedly, he probably would not phrase it this way).

Of course, this arrangement in which retired (or on-leave) politicians are awarded large sums of money by private interests is very convenient to both politicians and powerful private interests. This fact makes it unlikely that this phenomenon would be addressed effectively in a system dominated by the interests of those groups, despite the obvious conflicts of interests involved and the despite the equivalence for-all-intents-and-purposes of the activities involved to acts of illegal bribery.

Ideologically, as well, electoralism makes it natural for politicians to claim that their monetary rewards are justified. Just like manufacturers who manage to sell their products to a large number of people and can claim that the popularity of their products is an indication of their high quality, successful politicians can claim that the fact that the were elected is evidence of their high qualifications. It is only fair, then, according to the rules of the free market, that they are rewarded handsomely for providing their skills, once they are not in office, to private employers. Any mechanisms aiming to limit the ability of former politicians to sell their skills would not only be unfair to those politicians but would also be a disincentive for highly skilled individuals to entering politics and using those skills in the public interest. Prof. Davidoff sums up this outlook in the last paragraph of his article:

I can’t begrudge politicians making money after years of relatively low-paid public service.

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