Friendship and civic virtue



Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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1 Response

  1. Avatar Kyle says:

    There’s a lot to think about here and quite a bit to be sympathetic towards.

    This stood out to me, “friends and neighbors are less likely to assume cronyism or bribery played a part in personnel decisions if they can vouch for the character of the appointee.”

    A couple of thoughts come to mind. In small group settings, I’ve seen cronyism, and (if Dara would like to attest) could probably be successfully accused of doing the same. I think the line between wanting to be a good friend and the appropriateness of action is always easier to spot with other people. There’s just an inherent bias there, sometimes its harmless, sometimes it isn’t and I really think that’s just an argument for breaking up concentrations of power. The more checks there are, the more disincentive there is to be inappropriate.

    On the other hand, public service sucks. From high school to POTUS, there are obviously benefits but as with any job there’s a lot more work that goes into the position than one sees from the outside. I think what’s inescapable is the sense that people judge, people criticize, people have no idea, and unlike the people doing these things, the officeholder is the one sacrificing time, money, privacy, opportunities, etc… Understandably that breeds a sense of entitlement to greater than authorized reward which, looks like and can be (but need not be) corruption.

    Finally, I think one of the casualties in our declining trust in institutions and other people is that now we presume people won’t be trustworthy, if it quacks, we assume its a duck without bothering to verify.

    I think that has consequences. I think, Will, you’re spot on about the local/national stage dynamic, but also that we’re too quick to assume that because someone might have a conflict of interest they are actually compromised.

    Maybe it’s just me but I have a hard time getting worked up about so and so nominating their friend such and such to a post. Such and such might actually be a good fit for the post, lets just audit their job performance and keep ’em if they’re good, fire ’em if they’re not. Life’s too short to get worked up over the slightest appearance of cronyism, after all aren’t we all where we are because we’re our parent’s children, you don’t get born in America (or Canada) via lottery or application.Report