Friday, June 14, 2013

An Exercise in Trust

Trusting government should be like trusting a toddler.  Never, ever leave them unsupervised for too long, because you will not like the results.

Far too many people put their trust in government without verifying tht trust is warranted.  This is a recipe for disaster - simply because the very nature of government is ripe for misuse by those with ill intent.

I'm not proposing that you should distrust government for grand conspiracy theories, or anything like that.  No, I'm proposing you shouldn't trust government blindly simply because of the sheer number of government employees we have. Even if the vast majority of government employees are completely trustworthy individuals, there is still room for damaging corruption.

Take, for example, the Federal government, which has on the order of around 3 million employees. Estimated totals of ALL government employees at all levels of US government top 20 million. If 99.9% of those employees are trustworthy, that still leaves about 3,000 corrupt Federal employees, and another 17,000 corrupt state and local employees. About 400 per state, if they were distributed evenly (which they're not - Illinois tops the nation in corruption, and Kansas is the lowest).

That's a lot of people who can still do a lot of damage, especially if we the people aren't vigilant.

That's assuming 99.9% of the people are moral enough to be 100% trustworthy. I have no idea what percentage of people in the world are 100% trustworthy, but I can ask you this - do you trust 99.9% of the people in your life?

If we take a look at public corruption convictions among government employees, the number of employees and elected officials convicted of corruption runs as high as 0.8% in Illinois - or eight times higher than my hypothetical example. To be fair, the conviction rate in Kansas is about the 0.1% my hypothetical example gives - but even then, most states have higher rates than my hypothetical example

That's just corruption convictions though - it makes no account for the people who don't get caught, or who got caught, but weren't convicted. How much higher is the real corruption percentage? And that's just for corruption - actual violations of the law.

What about those who pass and enforce bad laws and policies because they truly think it's the right thing to do?  Surely that percentage is much higher.

The bottom line is that you shouldn't trust government, not because of ideological differences or conspiracy theories say you shouldn't, but because the statistics suggest that they are not worthy of complete trust.

If you can't bring yourself to actively distrust your government, then at least go by the old adage - "Trust, but verify."

If you would like to do more research on government corruption, here are some handy links:

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