The price of plagiarisms

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Another minister is being accused of plagiarising a good part of his Ph.D. thesis. And, just like the incumbent Premier, who faced an older accusation of this kind, the Health Minister quickly reached a deal with one of the plagiarised authors in order to give the impression that his modus operandi was not that illegitimate. But whatever the results of his defence, the image of a political class that is building its prestige in a fraudulent manner is increasingly poignant. From Victor Ponta, who used his authority as Premier to block the rescinding of his Doctor of Law degree by changing various bodies solely for his own interest, the issue of Ph.D. theses plagiarised by politicians has gained higher importance in contrast to the case of other countries. While a German defence minister, a star of the Merkel Government, or a Hungarian president, a trusted man of Premier Orban, resigned following similar accusations, in Romania scandals of this type most of the times do not go beyond the level of words. To be considered a plagiarist does not represent an intolerable blemish here.

We must make several distinctions. Plagiarism is academic fraud, consisting of the theft of someone else’s intellectual work. The stake is obtaining a title that offers not just enhanced academic prestige, but also financial benefits. From this point of view, plagiarism entails an embezzlement of the budget, constrained to pay extra money to someone who does not deserve it. Various degrees of meritocracy stand at the basis of democratic society: whoever excels in a domain also deserves a material reward to match it. And that is how society should be hierarchically structured: whoever has higher budget incomes deserves it due to his intellectual skill. How legitimate, efficient or moral such a system is – that is a different issue. What is worrisome is the political class leeching off it. Often poorly trained, replacing real competences with thirst for power and unscrupulous pragmatism, the local political class thought to compensate through academic titles. With the help of a corruptible corps of professors interested in political support, politicians easily benefitted from the lack of academic vigilance. And they thus easily accumulated undeserved titles. But the most perverse phenomenon is different. Gabriel Oprea, former political leader and minister, set up an entire network of doctors in National Security Sciences, an academic subject that is unique in the world. A special corps of ruling power backers thus prospered, strongly vested materially and well-placed academically, which thus ended up forming a kind of state within the state. A corps loyal to the ruling power is perpetuated with their help, a nursery of politicians meant for obedience and occult help.

Summing up, there are several levels of intellectual fraud. Firstly, there is lying itself. A lie consonant with the cynical politician’s deceitful way of being, which moreover renders him vulnerable, forcing him to exert, if need be, efforts to cover up his former fraud – the emblematic case of Premier Ponta. Secondly, we are talking about professional imposture. The said politician lacks training for offices that require not just political options but also special knowledge. Thirdly, we are talking about an illegitimate clique leeching off the organism of ruling power. Such cliques, along with their institutional support, have ended up filling in for what in France is called the ENA, the national school for administration. But what over there is in plain sight and based on real performance, over here is rather occult and based on imposture. So, let us not act surprised with the results of a political class thus formed.