Stuck in traffic with a pressing need to urinate, a man gets out of his car and walks toward the low concrete wall, then jumps over it to get some privacy. No luck. His car wasn't on the road — it was on a bridge.
Sixty feet below, the man lost his life. But he won an honour: a Darwin Award. Given posthumously (and humorously) to those who help humanity by removing themselves from the gene pool.
The Darwin Awards come to mind when I think of Jean Charest and Quebec politicians. When I reflect on the incestuous relationship between politicians and construction companies, the political appointment of judges, the illegal financing of municipal parties... And of course, when looking at the cover of this week's Maclean's, calling Quebec "the most corrupt province in Canada."
Some say Quebec's premier, Jean Charest, will never recover from these scandals. If so, his political death might help humanity. Not by enhancing politicians’ gene pool (quite a challenge), but rather, the voters'.
In particular, the shameful displays of crony capitalism occurring every day in la Belle Province illustrate the correlation between the size of government and corruption. And by corruption, I also mean its "light" version -- the legalized shenanigans that allow politicians to dole out tax dollars to their buddies, or use them to buy votes in key political districts.
Corruption occurs when politicians spend other people's money. The more areas the state meddles in, the more numerous the opportunities for corruption. It's a mathematical rule. When government distributes licenses, contracts and grants, people have an incentive to use bribes in order to obtain a license, a contract or a grant. It’s true in Quebec and it’s true elsewhere in Canada.
Studies by the OECD, the World Bank and numerous scholars have clearly documented this relationship. It seems obvious, yet we ignore it, and as each year passes we blindly allow the State to interfere a little more in our lives.
I give the 2010 Darwin Award to Quebec politicians whose careers will perish from these scandals. Their blatant disrespect for taxpayers should help wake us up. And avoid the fate of Anita. The 1999 Darwin Awards candidate kept seven deadly snakes at home, as pets. A few days before one of them fatally bit her, she reported feeling safe in the midst of these predators. She loved them, she said. And trusted them.
David Descôteaux is a freelance economic journalist and an Associate Researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute (iedm.org)