On the end of the rule of law in the West, another case study: MPs expenses

I am growing more and more worried about the raising populist anger spiralling out of control.

First, it was the “outrageous” (but legally binding by contract) golden parachutes of failed investment banking executives.

It followed the popular clamour against sky-high (but legally binding by contracts) executive pay.

Then it came poor Sir Fred Goodwin and his pension (legally binding by contract), and his public grilling by the British government and puppets who have nothing else to do sadly reminding me of Dr David Kelly and the alleged sexed-up report on Iraq’s WMDs.

It seems to be the time of MPs and politicians. I guess that, at least in this country, this is what the swine flu pandemic was all about. I despise politicians as much as the neighbour, but I must say that for £64,766 (£44,436.54 net), I wouldn’t bother to represent anyone in any parliament, let along one based in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Then, I understand the extensive expenses they can claim back. Some will take advantage? Sure, but once you are meant to make do with under 45k per year, no wonder the claimed expenses go well above £120,000 in average. They claim expenses for cleaning their swimming pool? Pay them enough so that they can pay for it from their salary, and remember that they already had the swimming pool before they became members of YOUR parliament and accepted a pay cut to represent you. They claim a couple of porn films as expenses? Go to a hotel, spend the night and try to get a separate invoice for the minibar. Let’s behave like grown-ups so that we can identify the ones who are really taking advantage of the system.

And now, the populist and the advertising-space sellers (Vogue UK started advertising Chesire night clubs on their pages…) claim that the system doesn’t work. Of course it doesn’t! What did you expect? Give every MP a tax-free £100,000 salary and little allowance money and some of the brightest minds in the country will start looking politics as a rational option. But of course! If members of parliament start debating a salary increase… public uproar again!

You cannot have your cake, and eat it people.

But all the above brings up what really scares me. The difference between failed states and un-failed (yet) ones is no other than the rule of law. When politicians override private or business contracts to appease public nonsensical claims… you know you are near the end of the road. Here, in Washington and in Paris, a contract used to be a contract, due to renewal at a given date and with early expire clauses to protect the concerned parties in case of either side not fulfilling their obligations.

First the rich relocated themselves in greener pastures. Then non-doms started to move out. The number of businesses and businessmen following suit is growing by the week. Now 50p tax comes in, and the voices that complain that talent will go somewhere, are answered by the cynical bunch saying that where else are they going to go… “anywhere else” is the rebuttal.

Once the tree has no more leaves and starts dying it’s slow death they will realise that the rule of law is like manure to an economy, and bright businessmen, politicians and minds protected them all from the sun rays.

John Maynard Keynes said “in the long run, we are all dead”, but I would add that without rule of law, the death will be slow, like cooking a frog.



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