When countries are in decay, whether because of self-inflicted economic wounds or because of external factors, something is always better than nothing. Hitler, in part because of his rampant spending on weapons, was billed as having saved the German economy. Mussolini was touted for having gotten Italy’s famously flakey trains to run on time. These little organizational feats and economic boomlets, of course, had nothing to do with how deeply evil these men were, or how they created political systems that operated around their perverted world views.
I was reminded of that when I read that Hezbollah buys loyalty through charitable acts. That is, it turns the country into a terrorist stronghold, stifles Democracy, kills dissent, and then buys loyalty on the streets through loaves of bread. It’s like Tammany Hall, only without the charm.
By the way, if you want old-style Tammany Hall charm, read the marvelous Plunkett of Tammany Hall. It’s out of print now, but you might be able to find a copy at a library or used book store. George Washington Plunkett was a Tammany Hall political operative who decided to give a series of interviews to a newspaperman at the end of the 19th Century. Mr. Plunkett was a totally corrupt man, but one who was also charming and in total denial about his absent morals. In his mind, he never broke the law. Instead, as he always said, “I seen my opportunity and I took it.” In any event, the book spells out how Tammany Hall, through its financial corruption, kept the slums of New York in abysmal poverty while, at the same time, through small acts of charity, it deluded the poor into believing that Tammany Hall was their salvation. Human nature, especially when corruption meets ignorance, is unchanging.