“Conflict of Interest” is A Rich Man’s Game

by Barry Weisleder

Questions:

  1. How do you know when a bourgeois politician is lying?
  2. When is a bourgeois politician in a conflict of interest?

In the era of decaying liberal democracy, the corporate mass media occasionally identifies rich people in high office who appear to benefit economically from the laws and budgets they craft.

Donald Trump, for one, defies his critics, and just flatly refuses even to post his tax returns.

Canada’s federal Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, takes a different tack.  After he was caught reaping benefits that resulted from changes he proposes to federal pension plans, Morneau moved to sell off his shares in the over $1 Billion family firm Morneau Shepell.  It is a leading Bay Street pension administration and human resources company, with 20,000 clients across North America.  He pledges to donate to charity the profits he made since coming into office in October 2015, estimated at $10 million.  Of course, for a multi-millionaire, that is a drop in the bucket. It’s much less than he will be paid annually when he ‘returns to the private sector.’

Four other government ministers, following intense pressure, reported that they do not hold any publicly traded assets.  A further 14 cabinet members issued a uniform statement that they are in compliance with recommendations of the Parliamentary Ethics Commissioner, who said they do not have to put their corporate wealth in a ‘blind trust’.  Finally, ten additional ministers simply refused to reply to media questions on the subject.

For its part, the Conservative Party Official Opposition claims to be clean; but in opposition, since they don’t regulate anything, a true test of financial conflict seems beyond reach.

Somehow, though, doesn’t this miss point?  Doesn’t it ignore the elephant in the room?  By serving and preserving the capitalist system, bourgeois politicians reap the rewards of the private profit system, sooner or later — regardless whether they administer, legislate, regulate, or just stand back and watch their assets grow under the current regime, of which they are shamelessly a part.

The historic conflict of interest that really matters is the one between Capital and Labour.  That’s a conflict that cannot be regulated out of existence.  It can be resolved only by social revolution.

In the meantime, arguments in the media and in parliament about the alleged conflicts of interest of office-holding politicians represents a relatively minor issue:  they reflect the disputes between different factions of the capitalist class.

They also serve to remind working people that operating and benefiting from the capitalist system is mainly a rich man’s game.

Answers to Questions:

  1. When their lips are moving.
  2. Once they take office.

Photo: Chris Wattie, Reuters