[FOUNTAIN]Probity fails if not linked to ability

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[FOUNTAIN]Probity fails if not linked to ability

“Politics is the authoritative allocation of social values,” the American political scientist David Easton said. Social values are coveted, and so are rare ideas such as power, money, and respect. A society can avoid trouble when these values are allocated so that the members of society are convinced of the fairness of the allocation. Politics is the job of allocating values.
Among many social values, power and money outweigh all others. Power is a public value, while money is a private interest. Therefore, members of any society would naturally disapprove of the idea of monopolizing both power and money. They want to keep social leaders in check to avoid the synergy of money and power.
This psychology often prevails when a business mogul runs for president, the pinnacle of power. During the 1992 election campaign, the presidential candidate Kim Young-sam attacked the Hyundai founder Chung Ju-yung by proclaiming, “Those with money should not have power, and those with power should not have money.” He appealed to the voters to prevent a monopoly of power and money.
The Republican Party primary of 1996 in the United States had a similar issue. The publishing mogul and multimillionaire Steve Forbes, who was defeated by Bob Dole, was criticized for his background.
Those who have power might want to accumulate more wealth and those who have money could be tempted to buy power. As a precaution, the government should be determined to separate politics and the economy. Senior officials should sell their stocks or put them in a blind trust if they have holdings of more than a designated amount. A clear line is drawn in the allocation of money and power.
But integrity is not the only virtue expected of civil servants. Competency is as valuable as integrity and character. Would you want an incorruptible but incompetent government? Unbending officials would always prioritize the written law over reality. When incorruptible yet incompetent officials are positioned at regulatory agencies, the bureaucracy frustrates companies and people. That would be especially true in Korea, where many regulations are unreasonable.
Integrity can only shine when combined with competence. Let’s not forget competence in an anticorruption drive.


by Nahm Yoon-ho

The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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