American Decline

The American System is One Big Grift

By Peter Van Buren, The American Conservative

I learned the facts of life from a drunk uncle. He was not an American, and worked in international construction in Asia. His main job was to bribe people. Over the course of many tiny glasses of some awful, clear Asian liquor I learned every yard of concrete poured required money to gangsters who controlled unions and to politicians who controlled permits. A fact of life, he said. You get used to it. He even had a joke—my hands are dirtier than the guys who dig the foundations.

You come to realize someone is pulling the strings behind everything and it usually isn’t you, he said. The odd official just doing his job for his salary is a rube. You feel embarrassed for him, saying no for moral reasons. You learn, uncle slurred, to trust nothing. That politician on TV? The company just dropped off a nice check to his “charity.” Play by the rules? Those were the rules.

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