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Hotu Matua

A corrupt ultra-slim government?

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Last Saturday a forensic doctor was telling me about his experience in the government police department in Monterrey, Mexico.

He was elected chief of the Forensic Services, but he soon realized that all crimes were not investigated fairly. Bascially, criminals paid bribes through ther attorneys to the forensic doctors so that they issued a veredict that was favourable to their interests. The corruption was so rampant, that he had to leave right away as he didn't fit into that system.

He believes that the two main requirements for working in the police department in Mexico are: 1) being corrupt 2) being incompetent.

He confessed he had lost hope in Mexican people. I pointed out that I was not deterministic about this. I reminded him that Chile, a Latin American country sharing our Catholic and authoritarian tradition, had been climbing the ranking of conuntries with less perceived corruption, now placing itself very close to the Western developed nations. Venezuela, on the other hand, has been falling down and placind itself closer to the Sub Saharan countries in the same rankings.

The fact that Chile has been dramatically improving and Venezuela has been dramatically worsening proves, in my opinion, that being Latin American per se does not determine your future, but the choices that societies and governments make.

But then, while making those remarks, I started thinking. Even if we reduced government to its proper function, the use of retaliatory force to protect individual rights, woudln't this ultra-slim government still be as corrupt as it can get?

In a free market, competition naturally leads to the extinction of corrupt vendors/traders/producers in some degree, doesn't it?

But what are the drivers that make corruption not an option for a government?

Please let me know your thoughts.

Edited by Hotu Matua

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Even if we reduced government to its proper function, the use of retaliatory force to protect individual rights, woudln't this ultra-slim government still be as corrupt as it can get?

In a free market, competition naturally leads to the extinction of corrupt vendors/traders/producers in some degree, doesn't it? But what are the drivers that make corruption not an option for a government?

The same drivers that keeps each individual virtuous: adherence to rational principles with sufficient disincentives to violate the rights of others. Govt. has to fully enforce the laws that protect our rights.

Thus a politician has to be held to the highest standard since he represents millions of people and their rights. His job and power cannot be allowed to protect him against immoral behavior. Ditto for a teacher - tenure should not protect him. Ditto for anyone who has unacceptable protection due to lobbying, unions, etc.

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Depends. Are we still a democracy (representative or direct, doesn't matter)? If so, then without a rational majority, the irrational choices of the majority will eventually lead to a corrupt government.

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Thanks Alexandros and TLD.

I still don't get it.

Take the Swedish citizens, for example.

Are the majority of Swedish rational enough as to sustain a government with a very low corruption indexes, and at the same time irrational enough as to support a socialist welfare state?

I am really puzzled with the prospects for a corrupt society.

How can a corrupt society become less corrupt?

In your opinion, has the American government become more or less corrupt over the last decades?

We have observed a clear trend on bigger government in America. Has this been acompanied by higher levels of corruption or has this been an independent phenomenon?

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'Hotu Matua' 
Take the Swedish citizens, for example.
Are the majority of Swedish [b]rational enough[/b] as to sustain a government with a very low corruption indexes, and at the same time [b]irrational enough[/b] as to support a socialist welfare state?[/code] Evidently
[code]I am really puzzled with the prospects for a corrupt society.
How can a corrupt society become less corrupt?
Clean itself up by upholding individual rights - doing what we already said.
In your opinion, has the American government become more or less corrupt over the last decades?
We have observed a clear trend on bigger government in America. Has this been acompanied by higher levels of corruption or has this been an independent phenomenon?[/code]

More - a long-term trend. That's the result of moving from Capitalism to Socialism unchecked.

By "Corrupt" I assume you mean immoral. Morality dictates our politics: the more altruistic we become, the more socialistic or statist we will become.

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merely instituting a capitalist government is not enough to eradicate corruption in the world or in any one country. politics is merely a branch of philosophy, the 4th branch. capitalism should not, ideally, be the starting point for any plan to remove corruption. the corruption of today is a result of irrational metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. in order to properly remove corruption from society people must accept rationality as the foundation for all branches of philosophy, not just their political views.

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By "Corrupt" I assume you mean immoral. Morality dictates our politics: the more altruistic we become, the more socialistic or statist we will become.

I was rather thinking in a specific immoral behaviour: accepting or offering bribes to cover up or to investigate a crime or fault.

Take a specific realm of proper government action: the prosecution of three burglars who have left the victim's house almost empty.

One of them in the USA, one of them in Iran, and one of them in Cuba.

The police in each of these three countries would be doing the proper thing in prosecuting this criminal.

As per your point on morality dictating politics, I would expect to find more cases of policemen demanding money from the victims in order to start the investigation of the crime in Cuba or Iran (which are more altruistic societies) than in the USA, am I right?

Well... I am not sure.

I can easily imagine devote Catholics (or Muslims, for that matter) not getting involved in bribes, even if they are altruistic.

They would not bribe or accept bribes beacuse they would consider it an offense against God, or against their commitment to be moral.

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Corruption in government (as with any other crime) is largely driven by profit-loss calculation on the part of the would-be corrupt individuals. In situations where risk is low ("everyone does it!") you're going to have corruption even at low reward levels. So the proper method for dealing with corruption is for the organization to dramatically increase the risks involved.

However, I'm not sure I agree with your conception that gov't in Mexico is *particularly* corrupt. It might be more *venal*, but I doubt it's much worse overall than here in the U.S. where our PRESIDENT just finished ramming through a bill that most of the citizens don't want and a large portion are adamantly against. It might be better if it WERE possible just to get together a big chunk of cash and buy the man off. So don't think that just because that "corruption" statistic measures *venal* corruption that it is tracking *all* government corruption.

The ultimate solution to government corruption is twofold: take away as much as possible of the gov'ts power to dispense economic favors, and have a system of "checks and balances" that make the venal type of corruption more risky. Wouldn't it be helpful, for instance, if the courts recognized that the forensics people were predisposed to be biased and instead of treating them like a neutral third party, allowed the prosecution and the defense to bring in their own "experts" and dicker it out in the courtroom? Treating gov't officials as though their testimony is always suspect would be a step in the right direction there. It's less efficient, but EFFICIENT gov't is not necessarily desirable--because one of the things gov't does so easily is violate individual rights, and nobody wants them to be more efficient at that.

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Thanks, JMegan for your insights.

I had to look in Webster Dictionary for the meaning of "venal" and found it that it is exactly the word I should have used. It is just that in Mexico corruption is automatically thought as equivalent to venality.

Now, regarding the system of "checks and balances" you propose, I also have thought whether government could use a menu of private agencies for specific proper purposes, while retaining monopoly of coercion and single judicial court system working under a single objective Law.

For example: The State could give the victim the chance to choose among, say, three different police corporations, all of them private. The chosen corporation would still work only under the authority of the State. Same thing with experts or pundits of any kind. The State would pay these corporations exactly the same fees for comparable activities . A given corporation would, nevertheless, make more profits as more victims started choosing its services compared to those of their competitors. In addition, these private agencies could offer the victims special packages of extra services at an extra cost. This would be an incentive for private police corporations to be more effective and cictims would have the option of better services.

How does this sound?

Edited by Hotu Matua

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