Today, an editorial in THE PLAIN DEALER praised Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann for "Getting a grip on the gravy train." In particular the editorial saluted his "new rules for his office's use of outside counsel, a realm in which well-connected private sector lawyers land lucrative state contracts." Dann ran on a platform of purging corruption from state government.
I am happy that this attorney general is receiving recognition for his mission. With an activist media, especially in the blogosphere, political leaders often get more than their fair share of criticism.
On the other hand, I have my own theory about corruption: That it should be kept from becoming excessive. End of story. The analogue is the Manhattan restaurant one: If the rats stay in the basement and don't dine with the guest on the main floor, that dining spot and the city health officials are doing a great job.
Growing up in the late 1950s in Jersey City, New Jersey, I heard story after story about how well machine politics - think Mayor Frank Hague - worked. The trains, figuratively, ran on time. If your father needed a job, he got one. I got one which put me through college. The garbage never hung around. The level of corruption was sufficient to guarantee efficient government but seemed to contain breakers on excess. The greedy, the lazy, the rats who wouldn't stay in the basement were made to conform to what was in the interest of the greater good. When corruption-busters ran against the machine, we just rolled our eyes.
Note: When I went to graduate school in the midwest in the late 1960s, my colleagues and neighbors were shocked by my cynicism.