A culture of corruption in Utah

darkcloudsThis post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

As the John Swallow scandal reveals more and more culture of corruption within Utah’s Attorney General’s office, I am left with a few impressions.

While not surprised, I’m shocked how human beings consistently underestimate culture in their daily lives. If we were talking about Utah liquor policy I could point to a culture of drinking. If we were talking about the welfare state I could point to a culture of dependency. We know what theses cultures look like when we see them. In the John Swallow case, we’re dealing with a culture of corruption. It’s harder to see until the curtain is pulled back, but it’s there, and it controls Utah politics today.

I’m not saying that every individual Utah politician is corrupt. I am saying that Utah politicians, by and large, probably don’t even know if they are acting corruptly. A culture of corruption is subtle and deceiving by nature. Everyone knows a bribe when they see it. But how many of us know a bribe when it’s wrapped in a government contract?

Here’s the thing: We do know. It’s not like Utah’s politicians are idiots. They are some of our finest citizens. But I am sick and tired of watching Utah politicians compartmentalize and ignore their integrity. A culture of corruption will most assuredly destroy the integrity of even our finest citizens. And it’s not just politicians – I see way too many citizens groups affected by this same damning culture. On the right, bad things happen in self-righteousness. On the left, bad things happen in unrighteousness.

We have lost sight of the common good. A free society rests on negotiating the common good. The progressive right is blind to it, the progressive left thinks every personal problem they have is a state of emergency in the name of the common good, and profiteering businessmen call anything the common good that allows them to rob taxpayers to benefit their businesses.

Furthermore, I’m sick and tired of posers on matters of faith, family and freedom. If I see another slippery politician wearing a badge of faith, family and freedom when I know those are the last priorities in their political career, I’ll scream. I’m tired of flag-wavers who just say what they need to say to get elected. I’m tired of progressives who lecture the world about the definition of family and marriage, let alone fairness, tolerance and equality. Progressives should simply begin every sentence with these words, “Just to be clear my world is upside down. Good is bad and bad is good. So take what I say and just apply the opposite meaning if you really want to know what I support.”

Utah can do better. Utah must do better. Utah is the last best hope for freedom in this nation, meaning this world. We know what’s true. We know what values are required for a free society to flourish. But if we let a culture of corruption overtake us and breed a collection of self-serving crooks, Utah might as well disappear – we might as well jettison now every ideal and every legacy that has made this state exceptional.

Folks, if you stay uninterested in the world around you, if you let emotions govern your logic, if you allow cynicism and a sense of hopelessness to replace active engagement in politics, freedom will lose and it will lose to a bunch of crooks and ideologically insane progressives, both left and right. It’s time to pay attention. If the Swallow scandal has taught us anything, it’s taught us that it’s time for candor, honesty and transparency.

For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.

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