Elected Clan Leaders

Rich countries have good institutions and poor countries have bad ones. It is an undeniable factomondo. Corruption is the enemy of institutions. More subtle than straight up bribing but equally as toxic is clan based thinking. Clan based thinking corrodes institutions from the inside out. When hiring or appointing you should do so simply merit, irrespective of any personal connection. A variety of applicants are interviewed and vetted and the best one is this given the role. Under clan based thinking however that approach is itself seen as corrupt. With clan based thinking it is your duty to disregard the so called best candidate from an anonymous bunch in order to pick someone from your own clan - your uncle, your daughter, the guy you went to school with, or the guy that you owe a favour to. Clan societies deny themselves access to the the skills and abilities of the best and brightest. Instead they are left with self-enriching unqualified insiders who don't work hard and who are unlikely to be fired no matter how badly they stuff up. There are 196 countries in the world. Of the the 196 countries 25 of them are what can be described as very rich. Two of them are South Korea and the United States of America. And right now in these powerful democracies are being threatened by clan based thinking.  It is less obvious that what is normally seen.  It is occurring not by having clan members in official roles but rather just letting them get too close the politicians in charge.  

South Korean President Park Geun Hye is currently facing calls to resign over allegations she allowed a close personal friend to meddle in state affairs. Ms Choi Soon Sil is the elusive cult leader of the Church of Eternal Life.  She held no government post or security clearance but she did have a Rasputin-like grip on the President. Pretty strange stuff. The cult leader is being investigated for using her ties with the President to coerce companies like Samsung to make large donations to two non-profit foundations she set up, and personally benefitted from. Ms Choi's daughter also received preferential treatment as a student at one of the country's top universities. There is more too. But in short Ms Choim who has never held any official position, exerted huge personal influence on offical government policies. 

There is a strangeness in the US version of democracy.  And that is the traditional role of First Lady. The unofficial title is given to president's wife. Should she be unwilling or unable another female can take the role.  The bachelor and most likely gay President James Buchanan had his niece Harriet Lane perform the duties. Indeed she was the first person to be known as 'first lady'.  After her the title was applied in retrospect to past presidents' wives. While the role of First Lady it is unofficial it is heavily respected. In other democracies the spouse of the non-monarchial head of state or chief executive have almost no role beyond smiling in photos. In the US this is not so. In the US the president wife's is given an almost regal status. And right now President-elect Trump may be subtly shifting the role of first lady away from his wife and onto his daughter, Ivanka. Of all the people in the Trump family she has the best personality.  Ivanka is better at hosting and public speaking than Melania so in a sense it's better to have her fulfilling First Lady duties. But there is a clear conflict of interest. This is because Ivanka has taken over the running of the Trump business empire, The Trump Organization. 

Instead of liquidating his assets and placing them in a Qualified Diversified Trust, as President Bush did, or investing in index funds and government bonds, as President Obama did, Trump has done nothing. Waving away concerns about conflicts-of-interest, he's handed over control of his business interests to his children, most notably Ivanka. Donald Trump's clan mentality extends further. Immediately after his election win, he named three of his adult children (Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr) to his transition team. Which means the same people running The Trump Organization have also been choosing the top officials in the Trump White House administration. The United States has anti-nepotism laws that prevent the Commander-in-Chief from appointing family members to official positions. But Trump has not done this. He's found a way around instead by allowing his daughter, who now runs his business, to hang around in an unofficial capacity. In situations where you might expect to see his wife by his side you see Ivanka.  It's the type of clan based thinking that is normally seen in the poorest nations of Africa.