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Democracy for the common man …

This story is a couple of months old, but it’s obsessing me. I can’t get it off my mind. Unlike the majority of commentators, I don’t really ever expect the government to do the right, or even the sane thing, plus I would certainly accept any bribes I was offered myself so I don’t feel I have the moral standing to criticise others for doing so. So it’s not concern for the British Steel Industry which keeps me awake at night, nor agonies over the corporate takeover of democracy, nor even nostalgic angst at the Labour Party’s descent into Blairism. Here’s a measure of how much I don’t care about these things; I haven’t even really fact-checked this story properly. No, what has me waking up screaming is the following thought:

“That guy managed to buy the intervention of the British Prime Minister for a �125,000 donation. Shit, I could afford that!”

I mean it seriously. I have that much equity in my house. Any one of our fine British banks would probably lend me 125 grand with only a short delay for the paperwork. If I teamed up with a few mates, I could probably put together a syndicate capable of donating a cool million, which is getting on for the sort of sum that Bernie Ecclestone paid for a special exemption for Formula One racing from the European ban on tobacco sponsorship of sports events. Lakshmi Mittal swung a hugely profitable privatisation deal for a Romanian steelworks for less than the price of a fully loaded Porsche Boxster. The return on investment on these political contributions is just fucking unbelievable, even by Internet standards. What’s keeping me awake at night is that I can’t think of any reasonably discreet ways in which the government could make me rich, because I know that if I had that idea, I could pay them to do it. It must have been like this to be a web developer without a business plan in the 1990s.

Somehow, I think that the Americans have it right on this one. Over there, you’re laying out $20K just to sit at a table on the opposite side of a crowded dining hall from Al Gore, and he isn’t even the President. Like investing in futures, bribing politicians is something which really should not be available in unit sizes which the average Joe punter can afford. It’s just too high octane fuel.

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