Big Government Breeds Big Corruption

Question: What do Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D), convicted Senator Ted Stevens (R), failing public school administrators, and the 80 percent of retiring California Highway Patrol chiefs who apply for disability have in common?

Answer: None of them is honest, and all of them are part of America’s already vast and rapidly expanding government.

First, a Last Chance to Order Before Christmas

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“When Buying and Selling are Controlled by Legislation, the First Things to be Bought and Sold are Legislators.”

The idea that big government is inherently corrupting is as old as America itself. It was part of the Founders’ case for casting off the chains of the British monarchy.

More recently, the principle that big government breeds big corruption was perhaps expressed best by humorist P.J. O’Rourke, who said:

“When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.”

Blago is Just the Most Obvious Example

The shocking case of corruption in the office of the governor of Illinois by Rod Blagojevich is just the most obvious manifestation of this tendency for dishonesty to grow as government grows.

When the Detroit public school system continues to take money for the 76 percent of students that it fails to graduate on time or at all, its administrators aren’t being honest.

When 80 percent — 80 percent! — of California Highway Patrol assistant and deputy chiefs claim a disability at retirement to inflate their pensions, they are not being honest. (Also see this shocking story from yesterday’s New York Times).

When at least 25 percent of the $50 billion of the taxpayers’ money spent each year on Medicaid in New York is likely due to fraud, waste and misuse, it’s not only the individuals defrauding the system that are being dishonest, but the government officials allowing this travesty to continue are dishonest as well.

The list could go on and on.

Corruption Will Only Grow as Government Expands into Our Economy

It’s examples like these that have caused Americans to lose faith and trust in their government. It was Republicans who paid the price for this in November, but in reality, all of us are paying.

And we’ll only pay more as the federal government moves further and further into part-ownership of America’s insurance companies, banks, financial institutions and, most likely, Detroit’s auto industry.

That’s why I believe that the most important words in rethinking government in the next decade won’t be vague promises like “change” or massive government attempts at make-work “stimulus.”

Honesty. Effectiveness. Productivity. Creativity.

The four most important words in rethinking government in the years to come will be these:





There are sub-words that could be added. For instance, the natural counterpart to honesty in government is “accountability.” Honesty in government also breeds “integrity” in government.

But note one thing: Each of these words emphatically do not describe hulking behemoths like bureaucracies, bloated labor unions, or massive corporations.

Honesty, effectiveness, productivity and creativity don’t describe Washington. They describe places like Silicon Valley. They describe the lean, agile and innovative companies and institutions that are making American better every day.

The Watchwords of the World That Works

Honesty, effectiveness, productivity and creativity describe the world that works rather than the world that fails.

Our goal in the coming months and years must be to move our government from the world of dishonesty, failure, inefficiency and stagnation — the world that fails — to the world of honesty, effectiveness, productivity and creativity — the world that works.

Think this sounds like cock-eyed optimism? If so, I’m in good company.

Ronald Reagan once said there are no easy solutions, just simple ones. Nothing could be simpler than the four watchwords for transforming government I’ve laid out — and nothing will be more difficult than changing our government institutions to meet them.

Governor Blagojevich is long past due for a wake-up call. It’s time to get to work.

RNC Gets It All Wrong

With these four watchwords in mind, I was saddened to see the Republican National Committee’s recent web video trying desperately to draw a link between President-elect Obama and disgraced Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

This is exactly the type of mindless, character-assassination, attack politics that the voters rejected in 2006 and 2008.

Everything about this ad is wrong — from its sheer desperation, to its tone, to what it says about the agenda of the Republican Party.

Clearly, we should insist that all of the taped communications about the Senate seat be made public. But that should be a matter of public policy, not of political attack.

If the Republican Party ever wants to return to the majority, it must spend the next two years being the “better solutions party,” not just an opposition party.

This means Republicans should be willing to work with President-elect Obama when he is right. And when he is wrong, Republicans must make it a point not just to oppose him, but to offer a better solution.

It also means that from now until the inaugural, Republicans should be willing to work with President-elect Obama as he prepares to take office, not engage in the same trivial, negative politics that failed in the past two election cycles.

In a time when America is facing real challenges, we should be rooting for an incoming President to succeed in meeting them. This ad is a terrible signal to be sending about both the goals of the Republican Party in the midst of the nation’s troubled economic times and about whether it has learned anything from the defeats of 2006 and 2008.

The RNC should pull the ad down immediately.

Newt’s Quick Links

• The American Solutions Airline Passenger Project (TravelASAP) has launched a new vlog. Check it out.

• Think things can’t get any worse in Illinois? Think again.

• A financial nightmare before Christmas? Read more here.

• More proof that government immigration status enforcement should be out-sourced to Visa or American Express.

• My speech to the American Legislative Exchange Council on the future of conservative governance.

• An AP video about “buckypaper,” a remarkable paper-thin material made from carbon nanotubes that is stronger than steel

Your friend,

P.S. It’s Not Too Late: Still puzzling over a gift for that special someone? Perhaps she is a defender of God in American history and public life?

A Civil War buff?

A student of public policy?

A fan of alternative histories?

A fierce advocate of American energy independence (book or DVD)?

All this and more is available for shipping by Christmas if you order by December 18th at the Newt Store. Just go to

P.P.S. New Year’s Resolutions are almost upon us. Washington could use a few good resolutions, so send your best resolution ideas for reforming government in 2009. I will post the best 2009 resolution ideas in this newsletter. Just send them to me at Who knows? Maybe your resolution will be the next great reform.