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Sunday, 27 January 2013


Mannie Sherberg
My trusty dictionary tells me that "venalis" is Latin for "for sale." That being so, I would say that a large segment of the American political class is venal -- for sale to the highest bidder. The venality runs deep -- from the Presidency to Congress to our state legislatures down to our city councils. The "sale" can be concluded in many way: payment of money, free tickets to athletic events, special deals on home mortgages, opportunities to play golf on exclusive courses, free lunches and dinners, periodic gifts of Johny Walker Black Label Scotch, introductions to various power brokers, contributions to one's campaign chest -- the list goes on and on. What's noteworthy, I think, is that political venality rarely takes the form of real need; politicians don't put themselves up for sale because they're destitute and the kids have nothing to eat. In almost all cases, political venality is motivated by greed and a lust for power. But there's no question that it's a growing problem for our country.
Tom Glennon
As a native Chicagoan, let me add a definition that explains the "Chicago Way". An honest politician is one who, when bought and paid for, stays bought and paid for.
Mannie Sherberg
Tom -- you've hit upon a philosophic conundrum that only an Aristotle could resolve: A politician -- Chicagoan or otherwise -- who's bought and paid for is, by definition, venal. But a politician who stays bought and paid for -- who, in other words, stays loyal to the people who corrupted him and therefore refuses to sell himself to an even higher bidder -- is, by definition, incorruptible and therefore not venal. How can someone be both venal and not venal? This would appear to defy the Law of Contradiction. Since Aristotle wrote the book on logic, I think I'll send him an e-mail and ask him to clear this up. I'll send you his response as soon as I get it.
Tom Glennon
Mannie, I don't think even an Aristotle could explain this political axiom. Perhaps this quote has the seed of understanding. "Politics have no relation to morals." Niccolo Machiavelli

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