Hunter Biden’s Socially Acceptable Corruption

The real crime is what's legal.

Sarah Chayes, author of Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens National Security, offers a devastating look at a troubling phenomenon highlighted by the corruption scandal that has sparked an impeachment inquiry regarding the sitting President.

The whistle-blower scandal that has prompted the fourth presidential impeachment process in American history has put a spectacle from earlier this decade back on display: the jaw-smacking feast of scavengers who circled around Ukraine as Viktor Yanukovych, a Moscow-linked kleptocrat, was driven from power. Ukraine’s crisis was the latest to energize a club whose culture has come to be treated as normal—a culture in which top-tier lawyers, former U.S. public officials, and policy experts (and their progeny) cash in by trading on their connections and their access to insider policy information—usually by providing services to kleptocrats like Yanukovych.

—The Atlantic, “Hunter Biden’s Perfectly Legal, Socially Acceptable Corruption”

Chayes eschews the “false equivalency” notion, stating forthrightly that what Trump has done is criminal and impeachable and what Hunter Biden has done is all perfectly legal. She merely questions whether it ought to be.

All too often, the scandal isn’t that the conduct in question is forbidden by federal law, but rather, how much scandalous conduct is perfectly legal—and broadly accepted.

Let’s start with Hunter Biden. In April 2014, he became a director of Burisma, the largest natural-gas producer in Ukraine. He had no prior experience in the gas industry, nor with Ukrainian regulatory affairs, his ostensible purview at Burisma. He did have one priceless qualification: his unique position as the son of the vice president of the United States, newborn Ukraine’s most crucial ally. Weeks before Biden came on, Ukraine’s government had collapsed amid a popular revolution, giving its gas a newly strategic importance as an alternative to Russia’s, housed in a potentially democratic country. Hunter’s father was comfortably into his second term as vice president—and was a prospective future president himself.

Again, the point isn’t Hunter Biden. Or even Joe Biden.

There are no indications that Hunter’s activities swayed any decision his father made as vice president. Joe Biden did pressure Ukraine’s fledgling post-Yanukovych president to remove a public prosecutor—as part of concerted U.S. policy. So did every other Western government and dozens of Ukrainian and international pro-democracy activists. The problem was not that the prosecutor was too aggressive with corrupt businessman-politicians like Hunter Biden’s boss; it was that he was too lenient.

So, the “scandal” that Trump and his enablers are peddling is a nothing-burger. The prosecutor would have been fired without Joe Biden’s lobbying and, if anything, that lobbying worked against his son’s interests.

The real scandal, as they say, is what’s legal. And it’s a system that’s exploited on a bipartisan basis.

Hunter Biden was hardly the only prominent American who did well for himself during Ukraine’s transition. Another Burisma director was Cofer Black

George W. Bush’s CIA counterterrorism chief. The Republican operative and future Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort worked for Yanukovych. So did Obama White House Counsel Gregory Craig.

Those with more prominent positions play the game at an even higher level.

When prominent Americans leverage their global reputations for financial gain, they attract almost no attention today. How many of us who consider ourselves well versed in U.S. politics and international relations know that alongside her consulting firm, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright started an emerging-markets hedge fund, run by her son-in-law? In 2011, Albright Capital took a voting stake in APR Energy, specializing in pop-up electricity plants for developing countries. APR promotes itself to the mining industry in Africa, where resource extraction enriches a handful of kleptocratic elites and leaves locals mired in pollution and conflict. Some of APR’s business comes via the U.S. Agency for International Development, which works closely with the State Department once led by Albright.

Scratch into the bios of many former U.S. officials who were in charge of foreign or security policy in administrations of either party, and you will find “consulting” firms and hedge-fund gigs monetizing their names and connections.

Some of these gigs require more ethical compromises than others. When allegations of ethical lapses or wrongdoing surface against people on one side of the aisle, they can always claim that someone on the other side has done far worse. But taken together, all of these examples have contributed to a toxic norm. Joe Biden is the man who, as a senator, walked out of a dinner with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Biden was one of the most vocal champions of anticorruption efforts in the Obama administration. So when this same Biden takes his son with him to China aboard Air Force Two, and within days Hunter joins the board of an investment advisory firm with stakes in China, it does not matter what father and son discussed. Joe Biden has enabled this brand of practice, made it bipartisan orthodoxy. And the ethical standard in these cases—people’s basic understanding of right and wrong—becomes whatever federal law allows. Which is a lot.

Absent substantial evidence to the contrary, I presume the timing of Hunter Biden’s joining the advisory board and his accompanying of his father on the trip was coincidental. If anything, the sheer prominence of the imagery makes it incredibly unlikely either Biden thought anything untoward was going on.

Was the younger Biden qualified to serve on these boards in his own right? Maybe. He was, after all, a Yale-educated lawyer with years of experience in investment banking and service in the Clinton Administration. But, obviously, his father’s lofty perch made him very attractive.

The appearance of impropriety here is genuine. But it’s not obvious how one would go about regulating it. While we can demand that those in public service file financial disclosures and divest themselves of various entanglements, there’s only so much we can do for their grown children.

More troubling than the Biden saga is the proliferation of “consulting” firms headed up by former secretaries of state, secretaries of defense, national security advisors, four-star generals and admirals, and other extremely senior people. While they’re entitled to make a living and cash in on their careers of service, they’re often being paid for access and influence. They have networks of people who used to work for and still feel beholden to them.

I’m uncomfortable with any of those people joining corporate boards, much less advising foreign governments. Certainly, at least without a substantial interval between doing so and leaving their posts.

There have been various reforms over the years aimed at this problem. But they’ve been modest, to say the least.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Government, Joe Biden, Law and the Courts, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    I’m with you on this, @James. My introduction to small-bore corruption came at the tender age of 19 when I was a library grunt at a DC law firm. That’s when I realized lobbyists write legislation. They don’t just advise or comment they actually sit down and write the actual bills.

    We need a whole new set of ethics laws, starting from the ground up.

    ReplyReply
    20
  2. Joe says:

    While I agree with James, I disagree with michael.
    I recently had this argument with my brother (also Michael – what is it with you people?). As a lawyer in a regulated industry, it is part of my job to write proposed legislation and proposed regulations and to advocate for them. That is not corruption unless the legislator or regulator abandons his/her own judgment and passes legislation/regulation that s/he does not agree with. But I know at least as much about the likely impact for good or bad that such laws/rules will have.

    ReplyReply
  3. Is it possible that Hunter got access because of his family name? Certainly, and it would not be the first time that a family member tried to profit because of their connection to someone in power (see Billy Carter and Roger Clinton for some of the more egregious examples). Outside government people have gained access to benefits or positions because of “connections.” Unless there’s something illegal about it — which is what the whole “Varisty Blues” scandal involving parents paying off college officials to get their kids into college is all about — I don’t think there’s anything we can do about it.

    ReplyReply
    4
    1
  4. michael reynolds says:

    @Joe:
    It is absolutely corrupt to have industry lobbyists writing bills. At the time I was at Wilmer, Cutler and Pickering (now morphed into Wilmer Hale) and there was simply no comparison between the experience, the education, the time and the money we had, and the same for Congressional staff. We had the former head of the SEC as a partner writing legislation; who, on some House member’s staff was going to argue points of security law with him?

    Furthermore, it would have been legal malpractice had we not tried to turn bills to the advantage of clients. That’s why the firm was paid – to screw regulators, deceive the public and spoon-feed lazy, corrupt Congresspeople.

    ReplyReply
    7
    1
  5. grumpy realist says:

    Trying to come up with a society where connections and networking aren’t used to dump the boss’s son in a cushy position—probably the only case where you could have that done is in a crazy SF imagined society where kids are whisked away from their parents as soon as they are born, given a change of identity, and then placed at random in orphanages to be brought up.

    The best we can do is bang hard on the noblesse oblige principle and insist that the offspring be at least competent at the positions they’re gifted with.

    ReplyReply
  6. michael reynolds says:

    @grumpy realist:
    You know who I respect? Joe Hill. His father is Stephen King, and Joe could have piggybacked on that name. Instead he went out on his own (well, mostly) like a genuine human being and concealed his patrimony. I have little to no respect for people who use family connections. I wouldn’t do it. Our kids don’t do it.

    ReplyReply
  7. Gustopher says:

    Joe Biden cannot control what his kid does, but Joe Biden should not have been anywhere near Ukraine after his son took that job. The appearance of corruption is a bad thing on its own, even if there is no actual corruption.

    Similarly, Clarence Thomas should be recusing himself on cases and issues that his wife’s lobbying group has touched.

    ReplyReply
    10
  8. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds: Taking the name of a former labor leader who was likely improperly convicted and then executed was a little tacky though…

    I cannot see his name without thinking of the labor songs, which always suggest that he lives on. Which would have been a lovely project for Steven a king, actually — Joe Hill, The Man Who Wouldn’t Die, one half carefully researched biography, one half his corpse seeking revenge or manning picket lines…

    ReplyReply
  9. As best I can tell, there is absolutely no scandal involving Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine nor in China and I am thoroughly convinced that Joe Biden’s actions in regards to the Ukrainian prosecutor, Shokin, was above board and had nothing whatsoever to do with Hunter.

    Having said that: there is zero doubt in my mind that Hunter got the job at Burisma because his last name was “Biden” and because his father was VP at the time. I simply cannot imagine he had a resume that justified a $50k/month salary (IIRC), but he had a pedigree that did.

    I don’t like this fact. I likewise do not know what to do about it.

    ReplyReply
    18
  10. Scott F. says:

    You know who’s talking about this kind of legal corruption and arguing that the country needs big, structural changes?

    Now when you see a government that works great for those with money and connections and doesn’t work for much of anyone else, that’s corruption plain and simple and we need to call it out for what it is! Corruption has put our planet at risk. Corruption has broken our economy, and corruption is breaking our democracy.

    Yep, it’s that far-left radical Elizabeth Warren (during her Triangle Shirtwaist Factory speech in NYC). And she has a plan to deal with it.

    ReplyReply
    13
  11. grumpy realist says:

    @michael reynolds: Is there any difference in your mind between using “family connections” and “alumni connections”? Or “club connections”?

    And then there’s the “we’ll make up a job for you because we want your connections”. If you think the US is bad, don’t ever deal in China or other parts of Asia. Japan works more along the alumni connection route, which is why getting into Tokyo University is such A Big Thing. (I found the fact that I had been there as a grad student really opened a lot of doors.)

    ReplyReply
  12. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Gustopher:

    I’ll flip that one around – Joe Biden should have strong armed his kid off of the board. While not illegal, the ethical gaps in that scenario are the size of the Grand Canyon.

    And I’ll agree that Biden shouldn’t be subjected to the innuendo that a crime was committed, but I think that he does owe an explanation for why he took no action to address the glaring ethics problems inherent in his son serving on the board of a company which is a major part of the economy of what at the time amounted to a US dependency.

    And Michael is correct – we do not pay former senior officials what we pay them because we’re nice guys who want to do the party a favor. We’re buying their expertise and their connections, and we expect a return on our investment.

    ReplyReply
    7
    2
  13. wr says:

    Maybe if we as a society decided to tax the hell out of extreme wealth there wouldn’t be as big an incentive towards corruption.

    ReplyReply
    15
    2
  14. Jay L Gischer says:

    I am in pretty solid agreement with the OP and most comments. I want to demur on one point – hedge funds. As an investor, I find the “big name” at the top of the hedge fund to be a “stay away from that crap” sort of warning. Investing is hard, and Madeleine Albright doesn’t know anything more about than I do.

    The lure of “inside information” is strong, but almost always a sham, and a way to take your money. There are probably a few profitable opportunities, but I’m not going to see them, even though my financial adviser says all kinds of stuff about how important I am to them.

    I think private equity can serve a valuable purpose – Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway runs businesses that provide good services and good employment, and it’s more or less a private equity firm. He made a lot of money that way.

    In contrast Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital didn’t really do anything of value to the country.

    I don’t know of any regulation or legislation that would get rid of the Bains and keep the Berkshires. But getting rid of carried interest might be a start. Also a wealth tax.

    ReplyReply
    14
    1
  15. Michael Cain says:

    @Joe:

    I recently had this argument with my brother (also Michael – what is it with you people?).

    Completely off topic… per the Social Security Administration, from 1953 to 2010 Michael was one of the three most popular names for newborn boys in the United States. From 1954 to 1998, it was #1 in all years except 1964 (David). For the most part, it has been non-Michaels who have done it to us.

    I was at fencing practice one day a few years ago. Someone came to the gym door and yelled, “Mike! Telephone!” All four bouts that were in progress stopped because at least one of the three people involved (two fencers, one ref) were named Michael. In the bout where I was fencing, two of us were named Michael. The phone call was actually for a different Mike in the other gym where they were playing basketball.

    ReplyReply
  16. EdditnCA says:

    Trump
    Bush
    Clinton
    Bush
    Reagan
    Kennedy

    All had kids that traded on their parents name, legally. Hunter Biden is no different.
    Clinton

    ReplyReply
  17. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I don’t like this fact. I likewise do not know what to do about it.

    That’s pretty much where I am.

    Joe Biden is extremely close to his son. But that’s actually fairly unusual. It’s quite possible for a hypothetical VP’s son to simultaneously benefit from his dad’s connections and his dad to be pretty much clueless about what his son was up to. (I believe that pretty much described Ronald Reagan’s relationship with most of his kids.) So, even requiring recusal is impractical. And it’s all but impossible in the case of a President.

    @Scott F.: On their surface, many of Warren’s reforms in this regard sound useful. They would potentially stop some of Trump’s corruption–although it would require Congress to do its job. But it wouldn’t do much about most of the issues the article deals with.

    ReplyReply
  18. Joe says:

    @Michael Cain:
    I had this same issue as a “Joe” at Boston College in the early ‘80s, Catholic school populated by Italian and Irish Catholics. Someone would yell “hey Joe” on the quad and half the student body would look up.

    Hunter Biden board seat = Hilary Clinton speeches. Completely legal and normalized, but just unseemly attributes of position.

    ReplyReply
  19. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    As best I can tell, there is absolutely no scandal involving Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine nor in China

    Oh boy, don’t let certain trolls hear you say that Steven.

    Of course, the same said trolls are eerily silent about the activities of the Trump kids for some strange reason.

    ReplyReply
    10
    1
  20. @mattbernius: Indeed. I have already had a former student want to argue along those lines.

    I remain open, as I always do, to assessing evidence that runs counter to my stated position. But everywhere I look for evidence, all I find tells me that apart from the untoward fact that being the son of a politicians has advantages, I can’t find a real problem.

    ReplyReply
  21. Put another way: I don’t need an investigation to know why Hunter Biden got this job. The information I need is in the sentence I just typed.

    And so that leaves the question of whether there was malfeasance while he was on the job, and I have seen nothing to tell me that he did.

    And the Shokin thing is a total dead end.

    ReplyReply
    5
    1
  22. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But everywhere I look for evidence, all I find tells me that apart from the untoward fact that being the son of a politicians has advantages, I can’t find a real problem.

    Exactly.

    Again, if a crime or corruption did occur, then to your point is should be investigated. However, all of that is completely unrelated to how the President broke protocol and offers him no excuse for his malfeasance.

    And again, if you’re focusing on Biden’s son without noting how the Trump kids are deeply involved in similar activities, then — just hear me out — you probably are a lot more worried about the politics of what’s going on rather than the principle.

    ReplyReply
  23. Kathy says:

    The problem ins’t so much the use of connections by former officials, or by families of current and former officials, but that they are also complicit in selling the rest of us the idea that we live in a meritocracy, where such success is open to all.

    ReplyReply
  24. Moosebreath says:

    @Michael Cain:

    I’ll do that story one better. My parents met at a mixer between their colleges in the 1950’s, before each dorm room had its own phone. Instead there was a common phone for each hallway.

    When Dad called a couple of days later to ask her for a date, Mom didn’t remember him, and asked if he wanted one of the other 4 Ruths in the hallway.

    ReplyReply
  25. Andy says:

    One example of legal corruption I always think of is how many of our ambassadorships are basically for sale. If one aspires to be a United State Ambassador, the easiest method is simply to raise a lot of money for a successful Presidential election campaign.

    It’s also rather remarkable how many Congressional Representatives and Senators manage to become multimillionaires on a $174k a year salary while maintaining households in their home state and DC – one of the most expensive cities in the country.

    ReplyReply
    10
  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Michael Cain: @Joe: I had this problem on every job site I ever worked at. Somebody would yell, “Hey asshole…” and every single carpenter, electrician, plumber, iron worker, laborer, etc would stop and look up.

    ReplyReply
    14
  27. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Joe:

    I just moved to a new neighborhood, and every single neighbor on each side of my house/across the street/alley is named David.

    It’s great for a guy like me who can’t remember a name unless it’s repeated 27 times.

    ReplyReply
  28. Hal_10000 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    That’s when I realized lobbyists write legislation. They don’t just advise or comment they actually sit down and write the actual bills.

    I agree on the problem but disagree on the solution if you want to know one of the reasons I tend to be a small government type, this is why. I don’t think you can rebuild a system of big govt that doesn’t have this. So long as the feds have their fingers in every pie, so long will the rich and powerful vie for control over it. Hell, half of it is defensive. If you don’t lobby and write bills and donate, the govt will come after you.

    The biggest way to cut the power of lobbyists is to cut the power of govt.

    ReplyReply
    1
    9
  29. Gustopher says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Ideally, yes, Joe should strong arm his son a little on this. Failing that, he should have avoided touching anything related to Ukraine.

    Wherever the son works, however, there is going to be some conflict of interest. Gas company, environmental group, Wall Street… Something Joe Biden would need to be cautious of, to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

    Ginny Thomas is so much worse, though.

    ReplyReply
  30. michael reynolds says:

    @Hal_10000:
    Oh come on, that’s a hoary old GOP talking point. You want to shut down the EPA and let whoever wants to dump poison in your local river have at it? Shall we leave the management of the Mississippi up to the various states that border the river so they can compete to low-ball and Minnesota can send a flood of toxic industrial waste down to Iowa? Air and water are not local, they cross boundaries and only the feds can deal with it. Hence regulation.

    How about trucking? What if Maryland decides it’s fine with long-haul truckers carrying explosives? What happens at the Virginia border?

    I could go on quite a while listing other examples. We have a big government because we are a big country and ‘small government’ is just a nostalgic fantasy, a slogan without any practical application. It’s GOP magical thinking. The reality is that federalism is a hollow fiction used largely to rationalize racist policies.

    It was one thing to talk small government when we traveled by horse and a news update took three weeks, but we have phones and computers and the internet so a centralized government makes more sense, not less.

    ReplyReply
    15
    1
  31. gVOR08 says:

    James echoes the old line about defense contracting – the scandal isn’t what they do that’s illegal, the scandal is what’s legal. The Tea Party people and the Trumpskyites (very little difference) are right to be angry about the elitist swamp, of which this little bit of influence peddling is a tiny example. They do seem a bit confused about just who is an elite and what the swamp is, but how they get from that to voting for a corrupt, Republican, lying (but I repeat myself), New York self described billionaire is a puzzle. (OK, a rhetorical puzzle if you will, it’s decades of GOP lying supported by FOX and the rest of the Conservative Echo Chamber.)

    ReplyReply
  32. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:
    I’m completely agree with your take on the article you cite and Hunter Biden.

    But, reform comes from first recognizing there’s a problem. Money and connections will always flow to where they will bring influence on government. Our government currently makes that easy and it doesn’t have to.

    ReplyReply
  33. Seedee Vee says:

    Ukraine’s government had collapsed amid a popular revolution

    Gotta say you lost me after that.

    ReplyReply
  34. Teve says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It was one thing to talk small government when we traveled by horse and a news update took three weeks, but we have phones and computers and the internet so a centralized government makes more sense, not less.

    Yup. The EPA isn’t in the Constitution because what was the worst environmental problem that could happen in 1776? Farmer Smith dumps a hogshead of turpentine into the creek? You can pretty much handle that kind of thing locally.

    200 years later you’ve got global situations like Union Carbide poisoning 580,000 people in India with methyl isocyanate. If you think 18th century lasseiz faire rules are good enough for that situation you’re a moron. We have more complex rules because the world got more complex.

    ReplyReply
  35. @Seedee Vee: It is a reference to the 2013 Maidan uprising and the subsequent fleeing of the country by Yanukovych in February of 2014. These led to the collapse of the Yanukovych government and the eventual election of Poroshenko in May of 2014.

    Shokin served in the Poroshenko government.

    ReplyReply
  36. DrDaveT says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    I just moved to a new neighborhood, and every single neighbor on each side of my house/across the street/alley is named David.

    I have been in meetings where 6 of the 8 principals were named David. We used to joke that my division (~100 people) only hires men named David. I have had three bosses in a row named David. (One of my colleagues asked when it would be my turn; I quoted Sherman.)

    ReplyReply
  37. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Hal_10000:

    The biggest way to cut the power of lobbyists is to cut the power of govt.

    Okay. What do you want the government to stop doing? Specifically, not in global bloviations of the sort the Libertarian Party talks about. What does smaller government look like in practice?

    ReplyReply
  38. An Interested Party says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Ahh, libertarians…they live far more in a fantasy world than socialists do…

    ReplyReply
  39. dennis says:

    The f**kn privilege on display in these comments is f**kn astounding. I don’t give a shyt, though; I love all y’all.

    The real crime is the $700+ billion defense budget, but no money for healthcare, U.S. citizens dying from rationing their scripts, this PoS in the White House cutting school breakfast/lunch programs, and a million other outrages happening in the world’s richest country.

    I ain’t haytn on Kip, Skylar, Becky, and Bambi riding their folks’ coattails. That’s the American-mthafkn-way. I wish I’d had it.

    ReplyReply
    6
    1
  40. An Interested Party says:

    The real crime is the $700+ billion defense budget, but no money for healthcare, U.S. citizens dying from rationing their scripts, this PoS in the White House cutting school breakfast/lunch programs, and a million other outrages happening in the world’s richest country.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t you a Republican in the past? And haven’t you mentioned that you lean conservative? Anyone in that world perfectly understands why all those things you want funded aren’t and why the military has a permanent grip on the government teat…your comments remind me of this or, depending on one’s preference, this

    I ain’t haytn on Kip, Skylar, Becky, and Bambi riding their folks’ coattails. That’s the American-mthafkn-way.

    Lots of really bad things are the American-mthafkn-way…doesn’t make them right, though…

    ReplyReply
  41. dennis says:

    @gVOR08:

    They do seem a bit confused about just who is an elite and what the swamp is, but how they get from that to voting for a corrupt, Republican, lying (but I repeat myself)

    Here, here!

    ReplyReply
  42. dennis says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Yes, I was Republican in the past. Mainly a function of being in the military and being an evangelical churchgoer, two of the most insular communities in which one can be included. What broke that spell was studying the Vietnam War origins, which revealed how completely un-fkn-necessary it really was. And there was no public available internet back then, so I logged a lot of library hours. But I’m meandering off topic. You’re correct, and I agree: there is a lot of bad things inherent to America (don’t I know). My opinion is that being aggrieved at the Kips and Skylars inheriting theirs is a waste of my time. I don’t operate on that level, socially.

    ReplyReply
  43. Ken_L says:

    To adopt a somewhat contrarian position, the phenomenon under discussion is known as ‘networking’. It’s generally regarded not only as an essential capability to succeed in both the private and public sectors, but as the lubricant which helps organizations function effectively (or at all). Yes in a hypothetical perfect world all appointments would be purely merit-based, but that world doesn’t exist. Burisma, to descend to specifics, could have spent months and tens of thousands of dollars vetting applicants to join its board, and ended up with a dud anyway. If Hunter Biden could achieve for them whatever he was supposed to achieve, within the law, then why not engage him?

    We instinctively object to nepotism and cronyism because they offend our sense of fairness (or perhaps because we feel excluded from the trough?). But personal connections and mutual relationships are what make organizations work, from your buddy on the IT help desk who gets your computer fixed in the lunch break two days ahead of your place in the queue to Rupert’s sons being the inheritors of News Limited.

    ReplyReply
  44. gVOR08 says:
  45. @Ken_L:

    the phenomenon under discussion is known as ‘networking’.

    Networking is making connections and building relationships.

    The awesome thing about being the veep’s son is that networking is already done. No real work required. You show up and you are already networked. Because, let’s face facts: networking still requires meeting people and getting them to know who you are. And you still have to convince them that you have value, even if someone else in the network put in a good word for you.

    If you are Hunter Biden, you are known (and if you aren’t, as soon as your name is heard, you are). When you network as Hunter Biden you a) don’t have do all the leg work, and b) your job in the networking becomes convincing them that you aren’t a moron or dangerous.

    I really don’t think you can call the privileges afforded to the son of the veep or like positioned person to “networking.”

    If Hunter Biden could achieve for them whatever he was supposed to achieve, within the law, then why not engage him?

    Well, Burisma’s motivations aren’t hard to understand here. And sure, if they can get what they need from Biden, and it is legal, why not engage. But let’s not pretend like it was normal networking.

    ReplyReply
  46. Hal_10000 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Oh come on, that’s a hoary old GOP talking point. You want to shut down the EPA and let whoever wants to dump poison in your local river have at it?

    And this is the hoary liberal talking point response. You left out the “but muh roads!”

    Limited government does not mean no government (and on the environment, we have had HUGE problems with regulatory capture). What do you think happens as you expand the mission to government to address every problem in America? We have Democrats talking with a straight face about a federal government trying to dictate our choice of diet, our choice of drinking straw, the price of literally every medication, the pay scale of doctors, the amount of rent you can charge, the amount that colleges can charge, how many houses are being built. Do you really not see how that thorn maze of regulation and taxation just makes it easier for special interest to wield power while crushing everyone else? Do you not see the insane corruption of micro-managed economies? Half the stuff Congress is legislating they don’t even understand (see, e.g., the assault on Section 230). Who do you think they’re going to get to write their legislation?

    ReplyReply
  47. An Interested Party says:

    We have Democrats talking with a straight face about a federal government trying to dictate our choice of diet, our choice of drinking straw, the price of literally every medication, the pay scale of doctors, the amount of rent you can charge, the amount that colleges can charge, how many houses are being built.

    This line of argument has certainly helped the GOP, so bravo…

    Meanwhile, can anyone tell me of a successful country on this planet that has been successful while having a miniscule government? Thanks in advance…

    ReplyReply
  48. Matt says:

    @Hal_10000: It’s cute how you think leaving that stuff up to the locals will suddenly result in no corruption at all. Small town corruption runs just as hard as big city corruption. It’s human nature…

    Still you failed to provide any real answer to MR’s question. Nor did you counter any of his points. All the things you listed exist on a local level too and wouldn’t magically disappear if you “shrunk government”..

    I would love to read some real details from you. All I’ve seen are platitudes/slogans and that’s useless.

    ReplyReply
  49. @Matt:

    Small town corruption runs just as hard as big city corruption.

    Indeed, I suspect it is worse because in a small town it really does become who you know and the ability to check local bureaucrats is harder because there are so few of them to check one another or they are related or they went to school together (by which I mean from kindergarten onward), etc.

    Further, they have their jobs for forever and there is little circulation in of outside actors (or just new ones from within the community who aren’t part of the existing network) who will call BS on bad or corrupt practices.

    ReplyReply
  50. Matt says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Yes you’re exactly right. I grew up in a small town and basically everything relied on who you knew and/or who your parents/grand parents were. Even interactions with the police would be effected by your family name.

    I’m genuinely saddened that HAL ALWAYS refuses to give any real answer when questioned like this. He always falls back on platitudes and vague talking points. It would be wonderful if he could provide some actual details for once about how his shrinking of the government would go down.

    ReplyReply

Speak Your Mind

*