Talent Creates Conflicts of Interest

COL(R) David Johnson points out that our country is losing a lot of talent because government ethics officers are so worried about conflicts of interest. The more talented you are, however, the more likely you are to have created something that will result in a conflict of interest if you should enter government:
As part of his effort to eliminate conflicts of interest, Viola was negotiating the sale of his majority share in Eastern Air Lines for part ownership of Swift Air. Ironically, this divestiture created another conflict. The New York Times reported that Swift Air is “a charter company with millions of dollars in hard-to-track government subcontracts,” and that Viola “would find himself in the precarious position of being a government official who benefits from federal contracting.” More broadly, “his airline negotiations bring an unexpected twist, showing that even when appointees try to sell assets, the transactions can be bedeviled with ethical issues.” Viola withdrew his nomination.

Viola is yet another example of the costs one’s success can impose on those who seek to enter public service. Nevertheless, in the eyes of ethics lawyers in the government, it is an open and shut case. It is also a high-profile case where the conflicts are easy to identify yet the remedies by the individual, difficult to provide.
There may be other reasons to prefer a different candidate, of course. Still, there's a point to be made here. Aren't the people who have succeeded in creating successful businesses often going to be the very people we want?

1 comment:

Ymar Sakar said...

Freehold had an interesting system for leaders in a democracy. Give them life long power at the expense of all their wealth. Their wealth becomes public domain or in the hands of other people now, majority rules.

Right now people get wealth, popularity, power, and influence. They convert wealth to power and influence to wealth, via pay to play.

If humans had to live like a monk and sacrifice their worldly possessions to become a leader, politics would be purer and far more difficult to enter as well. People will figure out a way to game the system, sooner or later, which is why the question of who watches the watchers, becomes critical eventually.