Monday, December 21, 2009

Politics and Rent-seeking

Departing from more mainstream (and mostly pretty good) rap in Sinhala, Tamil (with the help of friends), English and combinations thereof, Iraj has come up with an interesting commentary on the the local political marketplace.

Out of jail with no place to go? Go to work as the local politician's enforcer, putting up posters, stuffing ballot boxes and impersonating dead voters. Need protection from the few cops actually doing their jobs? Foot the politician's bills and see your problems evaporate. And the politician's take: I got here the hard way, and I ain't going back, whoever I have to kill.

Naturally one needs money to beat all the other low-lifes fighting to get a toe-hold on the elevator to power and rent-seeking heaven. Money in amounts one doesn't have, hence the need for even more rent-seeking, just to pay pipers, before one can set up one's empire, and, I don't know, say,

  • make one's brothers one's personal advisors,
  • employ one's family members, classmates and neighbours in key positions in the state machinery, ridiculously politicizing every institution as well as state-owned businesses
  • educate (or try to, anyway) one's sons on taxpayers' money, take over - almost at gunpoint where necessary - all the reasonably profitable-looking businesses that are unfortunate to catch one's eye with their success
  • or just start a competitor - say, a security service head-quartered on state property (seen it with my own eyes), and issue circulars "strongly advising" all state institutions to start employing one's own firm
  • wine and dine just about every sector of society (which only the tax-evaders must really enjoy, since the taxpayer is after all footing those bills too)
Of course you can't take it with you, but who cares in a land of short memories and short-term thinking, particularly as your most potent infliction upon your country - your family - can hang around to fight over the carcass for years to come

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