With the smug self-assurance of the ignorant, I have taken it for granted that Americans enjoy the worst government in the Western world. My opinion has been shaken by recent news from the United Kingdom, and I'm not even talking about the David Miranda scandal, which demonstrates that a government can carry out kidnapping and theft with impunity.
The Guardian reports on the case of British businessman Gary Bolton, who made fake bomb detection devices for as little as about $3 that were sold for as much as $23,000. This is a profit margin that anyone publishing an American newspaper would envy, but it gets better. In spite of the fact that at least some British government officials were well aware that the devices were useless, tax dollars were spent by the government to promote the bomb devices in foreign trade shows.
Alas, "Made in Britain" isn't always a guarantee of quality, Rolls Royces and Beatles records notwithstanding. Here is a snippet from the Guardian's story, by Robert Booth: "In Thailand, where hundreds of the bogus devices were sold under the brand GT200 for use at police and army checkpoints, human rights campaigners have reported they failed to detect bombs that then killed four people. Hundreds more have been wrongly imprisoned after the fake equipment indicated they had handled explosives."
Bolton has been sentenced to seven years in prison. Tragically, he now suffers from depression, his lawyer told a British judge.
My favorite part of the Guardian's story is the calm British understatement from the opposition politician who has risen to say that all this sounds kind of like a bad idea.
"There are serious questions to be answered by a number of government departments and agencies," says a Labour member of Parliament, Thomas Docherty. "This sort of thing undoubtedly damages our reputation with foreign governments and they are less likely to buy British again."
I say, sir! This is almost unpardonable!
(Hat tip, hagbard celine on Twitter.)
UPDATE: Germany's in the news, too! 'Man in Underpants Partied in Merkel's Jet.'