How corruption destroys a people
This is about Greece, not the United Kingdom, but it carries a warning well known to great 9th century and 19th century Brits and doubtless to each of you -
Peggy Noonan is writing in the Wall Street Journal. She quotes Michael Lewis: Greece is a bankrupt nation, its debt, or rather the amount of debt that has so far been unearthed and revealed, coming to more than a quarter-million dollars for every working Greek. Over decades the Greeks turned their government into a piñata stuffed with fantastic sums and gave as many citizens as possible a whack at it.
. . .The Greek state was not just corrupt but also corrupting. Once you saw how it worked you could understand a phenomenon which otherwise made no sense at all: the difficulty Greek people have saying a kind word about one another. . . . Everyone is pretty sure everyone is cheating on his taxes, or bribing politicians, or taking bribes, or lying about the value of his real estate. And this total absence of faith in one another is self-reinforcing. The epidemic of lying and cheating and stealing makes any sort of civic life impossible.
Thus can great nations, great cultures, disintegrate, break into little pieces that no longer cohere into a whole.
Alfred understood this in the 9th century. He established Judeo-Christian ethics as the foundation of law and his people's happiness - do not steal, do not defraud, do not bear false witness. Be honest. Unless we can trust each other, we are lost.
In the 19th century another huge sea change occurred. Concern about government corruption had been growing across the United Kingdom and the far reaches of the Empire. In 1853. PM William Gladstone commissioned Stafford Northcote and Charles Trevelyan to report on the overhaul of the government's Civil Service. They showed that the integrity and impartiality of the Civil Service were essential to a people’s prosperity and that promotion in government must be colour-blind and based entirely on merit.
A corrupt government ties down the efforts of millions of men and women. It takes food out of the mouths of children. It feeds like bloodsuckers on the health and hopes of young and old with bribery, graft, nepotism, sloth and violence. It is a curse wherever it occurs.
Brits supported the efforts to clean house. In subsequent years the government's honesty sustained the people's honesty and well-being, and the people's honesty sustained the country.
When government interferes in the great chain of honesty, when it seduces people with government hand-outs, it ruins the people it is supposed to protect.