Scientists and statisticians caution against looking at a small cluster of events and deriving a trend. A cluster of events involving military and civilian agency corruption can make one wonder, is the military becoming more corrupt? Is the federal government becoming more corrupt?
The bigger picture says no. Let’s hope not. To a nation, corruption is a virulent form of cancer.
Once it gets to a certain point, there’s no return. In the U.S. and in particular the federal government, we’ve got pretty strong institutional safeguards and personal biases against corruption.
For this column, I’m talking about individual corruption like taking bribes for contracts or jobs, that sort of thing. A bigger debate is whether things like tax breaks or subsidies for this or that favored industry really represent a form of corruption — that’s for another day.
I recently interviewed an economics processor, Jeffrey Milyo of the University of Missouri, who’d examined detailed court records of federal, state and local government corruption. Corruption instances occur, but they’re not growing. At least in terms of prosecutions and convictions, the instances are rare, given the size and scope of government in the aggregate.