Corruption is so tacky

This article from the N.Y. Times talks about how the leaders of South Africa are becoming so blatantly corrupt that people are calling for “lifestyle audits” to find out how public servants in a not-terribly-wealthy country can afford BMWs and designer watches.

I don’t mean to pick on South Africa, because corruption is a problem in lots of countries all over the world. It’s a tough problem to solve. Once a place develops an entrenched culture of political corruption, bribes and embezzlement from the public coffers, it often becomes hard to stop – and hard to find people who want to serve in public office for the right reasons.

Maybe the way to fight corruption is to make corruption something to be ashamed of – not just because it’s wrong, but because it’s tacky.

Seriously. Is there anything more slimy and tawdry and in poor taste than selling your office? Is there a bigger sign of a leader’s insecurity than the fact that he spends his people’s money on a nice watch and a fleet of cars?

If you’re the president of a country, you have the power to change the lives of millions of people for the better. And instead you buy yourself a nice watch and a fast car? What are you, nine years old? These guys remind me of Borat bragging about his VCR remote control – don’t they know how embarrassing they are, to their countries and to themselves?

President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, and he gave the money away to charity. That’s what a leader should do – be generous. Give the money away. Real leaders aren’t motivated by money and flashy, shiny things – they’re motivated by making a difference; not by looting as much treasure as they can get for themselves.

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