Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets, by Peter Schweizer. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. 250 pp. $27 (hardcover).

Many people, from all sectors of the political spectrum, believe our government is bought and paid for by corporations. Fat-cat businessmen, in this view, bribe politicians. They donate cash to politicians’ campaigns, and in return politicians grant them special favors: bailouts, subsidies, protection from competition, and the like. Money, according to this line of thinking, corrupts politics.

This view contains an element of truth. Some businessmen do seek special favors from government. But that is only a small part of the story. In Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets, Peter Schweizer points out, “We have focused on the buyers of influence (those outside special interests), but paid little heed to the sellers of influence—bureaucrats and politicians” (2). “What if the problem,” Schweizer asks, “is not bribery . . . but extortion” (2)?

If so, the idea that money corrupts politics is backward. Rather, Schweizer argues, “Politics is corrupting money” (1–2). The politicians and bureaucrats, not the corporations, are pulling the strings.

How? . . .

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