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Corruption drives history

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See: http://thedailyshow.cc.com/extended-interviews/b6364d/sarah-chayes-extended-interview

 

In a couple of other threads where we have discussed taxation and terrorism, a recurring topic is the one revolving around the drivers of history (which in turn gives us insight into the future).

 

Does religion create terrorism, or do terrorists (with other motives) use religion as a tool? Or a combination of both?

 

I suggested that looking through the lens of philosophy is not actually very helpful, despite Ayn Rand's obvious bias in this regard. I instead suggested we look corruption as the driver of history (particularly modern-day history).

 

A few days ago I watched the linked interview here from an author that clearly knows the Middle East extremely well. She explains the rise of terrorism (and terrorist regimes like Isis) better than I've ever seen anybody do so: she shows how corruption leads directly to terrorism.

 

I have also said that reason is the cure--the only cure--for political corruption. I have always maintained that we Objectivists should be the guardians of reason and reality--making sure people know that facts are the basis of a better life and a more fair and effective government. it's our job to fight populism, and to stamp out superstition and other epistemological games corrupt power-brokers play to ply their trade.

 

As an example, I have personally switched my own "political party bias" from Republican to Democrat in the last 20 years because I now see the former as the party of populism, blatant institutionalized (and celebrated) stupidity and unreason (and to be clear, it's a bias not an absolute sort of thing--and I bring up this point up only as an example). I see corruption as our enemy, not "taxes" or "regulations" per se (although both can be the fruits corruption).

 

If we don't defend reason, nobody will. It should be our top priority.

 

 

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Corruption, like everything, presupposes a philosophy. If you ask, "What's corrupted?" you're already treading into philosophic waters with your answer. I'm sure you know the argument for philosophy as the driver of humanity, so what is your counter argument?

Edited by JASKN
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Corruption, like everything, presupposes a philosophy. If you ask, "What's corrupted?" you're already treading into philosophic waters with your answer. I'm sure you know the argument for philosophy as the driver of humanity, so what is your counter argument?

 

I suppose any sequence of words could be construed as, "treading into philosophical waters" since everything we think or do falls under its analysis. That's not particularly meaningful, however.

 

But if I were to add a more specific meaning to your question, I would answer, in short, that we're "Not Aquinus's Angel"--the humans do not automatically discover the implications of their basic premises immediately or even at all sometimes. We have vast populations of deeply religious people in the world who have built entire nations based on principles that contradict their own religion's teachings, and we of course have examples of the opposite. Thus its not the philosophy that is the active ingredient, but rather other ingredient(s).

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To suggest that corruption drives history is to suggest that man is inherently evil. To suggest that history is driven by popular movements intended to improve mankind is to suggest that man is inherently motivated by good intentions. Corruption is far more likely to integrate and become the norm in social orders with flawed institutions, and a flawed sense of justice, as is the case of many developing nations in the present.

 

The United States had advantages few other nations had. Our sense of justice evolved from English Common Law, with its centuries of initiatives designed to prevent corruption, such as the Magna Carta, Parliamentary rule, and the Rights of Men. It was philosophy that drove these conventions, if not the theological interpretations of the best minds of England. The Humanist movement and the scientific movement, if these movements were driven by corruption, I'd like to know what that connection to corruption is. Corruption is the parasitic adaption of evil, or in some cases, well-intending men.

 

It is the "well-intending" aspect of men, or women, driving the arguments of their causes, or their movements, that directly involves philosophy. Constantine the Great embraced Christianity as a means of unifying a fractured empire, and theology drove the order of their society for a thousand years afterward. The fact that corruption integrated so easily throughout that system can be attributed to the nature of its theological foundation. Kaiser Willelm I and Otto Von Bismark constructed a nation devoted to duty to German society and loyalty to the state. The flaws of such a system lie in its philosophical premises of altruism. Eventually, the such flaws led to two world wars.

 

While the United States is not immune to corruption, it has a Constitution that, if resurrected and redressed, has better potential for restricting corruption than any social order of its industrial size. The US, at a federal level, began a process of imposing greater governance over individual and corporate rights just over one hundred years ago, reflecting a general trend led by other industrial nations. The most glaring example of disregard for individual rights was the Volstead Act, prohibiting the open sale of alcohol. The effects of corrupting an already corrupted system are obvious to us today, but the advocates of the "Great Experiment" meant well. Nonetheless, our fundamental approach to capitalism and pragmatism served to expand the strengths of our most valuable institutions of property ownership and personal freedom. The commitment to the two world wars left us with a conundrum: If the British were no longer able to support the military needs of protecting global commerce and their former colonies were being courted by Moscow, the threat to our general notions of liberty were threatened as well. Thus, the military-industrial-(congressional) complex emerged with all of its very corruptible conduits.

 

So, I would argue that it is not corruption that drives history. Rather, corruption infects social systems, and affects those least immune to infection. The best inoculation against corruption is a social system supported by well-established legal bodies reflecting the highest moral code, and transparency allowing the governed to be as well-informed as possible about the actions of their governors. None of this could be possible without some philosophic foundation that hold individual rights as a primary.

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If someone is unaware of Christianity (as opposed to, say, being indoctrinated by it), does that diminish its effect on his life?

 

Equivocate much?

Religion, as a primitive form of philosophy, verses philosophy as a power from which no man may abstain, are two different grasps of a coin tossed on the basis of two different perspectives.

 

The philosophy derived from observation, vs. a theology that is derived from speculation, come from two camps which are apparently diametrically opposed. The variance in the metaphysics derived from either camp establish a dividing line that appears impenetrable from either side. Examined more closely, the role of faith vs. reason is one that bears closer scrutiny, or so it seems from my examination.

 

Equivocation, on the other hand, relies on the ability to switch between two contexts, whilst one depends on the  persuasion from the persuaded, the other comes across as standing on the merits of its own convictions.

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If someone is unaware of Christianity (as opposed to, say, being indoctrinated by it), does that diminish its effect on his life?

So, the ideas people hold determine the outcome of their lives, but those ideas... aren't philosophy?
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It's an interesting argument and I think there is a lot of virtue in pursuing it, but not for the reasons listed.  I think it would bring a lot of insight into how bad philosophies lead to corruption or more importantly for today's state of affairs how they perpetuate it.  

 

In short, corruption is simply a means of saying "bad philosophy".  You can make the case that what your suggesting is that corruption creates bad philosophy  but the truth is it's the choices people make so bad philosophy leads to corruption, either by design or ignoring it.

 

Be it the Witch Doctor or Attila the Hun it doesn't matter, you come to corruption via bad choices.  

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If you define corruption as "bad philosophy" then I would agree that it needs investigation, but if it means something else, I would need to know what you mean exactly by "corruption".

 

 

Is a "follower" (or "leader" for that matter) of an immoral irrational system, who obeys the law, tells the truth, and executes people when the majority vote says so... corrupt or not?

 

Is a "rebel" of an immoral irrational system, who rejects the law, upholds the rights of individuals and will not commit wrongful (against his own rational self-interest) actions... is he "corrupt"?

 

Is corruption the rejection of valid philosophy and ethics or the rejection of arbitrary social norms?

 

 

If you are proposing "corruption" as such as a major historical factor, I think we need to know what you mean by it.

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So, the ideas people hold determine the outcome of their lives [...]

 

Surely they effect it. But determine it completely? No, of course not. The political environment you happen to have been born into is far more decisive than anything you  might happen to believe in.

Edited by CrowEpistemologist
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[...] but if it means something else, I would need to know what you mean exactly by "corruption".

 

 

 

Absolutely, and I guess I didn't put that link (which clearly nobody here followed) in my OP prominently enough. That establishes the context and also saves me a lot of time do so.

 

But... this world we live in... okay...

 

I'd define a state of corruption in this context as the situation where basic justice for an individual is indeterminate. They may live within a system that gives them certain rights based on certain basic social rules (note I am talking way pre-Rights, and pre-Liberty here) and that established system is changed--corrupted--but the actions of certain men.

 

And yes, in that context, the prevailing philosophy is somewhat beside the point since corruption is an attack on a system that was established under varying semblances of reason. And corruption is a capricious attack since the overt State in question--insofar as it is a viable, recognized State--has its rules which most people follow.

 

So no, I'm not talking about a citizen of a "corrupt system"--and for that matter a "corrupt system" is an anti-concept in this context: one calls a political system "corrupt" when we notice a lot of corruption occurring within it. But it isn't always a matter of the actual written laws of the system being the driver of that corruption.

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If you define corruption as "bad philosophy" then I would agree that it needs investigation, but if it means something else, I would need to know what you mean exactly by "corruption".

 

 

Is a "follower" (or "leader" for that matter) of an immoral irrational system, who obeys the law, tells the truth, and executes people when the majority vote says so... corrupt or not?

 

Is a "rebel" of an immoral irrational system, who rejects the law, upholds the rights of individuals and will not commit wrongful (against his own rational self-interest) actions... is he "corrupt"?

 

Is corruption the rejection of valid philosophy and ethics or the rejection of arbitrary social norms?

 

 

If you are proposing "corruption" as such as a major historical factor, I think we need to know what you mean by it.

 

If that was directed at me, by corruption I mean bad choices.  That is about as fundamental as I can take the concept. 

 

How do we determine choices?  Philosophy, by conscious choice or unconscious choice, both through evading facts. 

 

An morality of the Government merely affects the choices given, not how we choose from those choices or the standard we use to judge.  

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Good topic CrowEpistemologist, and strong work Repairman :thumbsup:

 

...

 

Does religion create terrorism, or do terrorists (with other motives) use religion as a tool? Or a combination of both?

...

 

My money is on the religion as a convenient tool argument, with politics in the mix.  I'm out of time to add much at this point, but I will say that atrophy is one of the main forces that drives corruption, or to cite Edmund Burke:

 

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

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So, the ideas people hold determine the outcome of their lives, but those ideas... aren't philosophy?

In short, corruption is simply a means of saying "bad philosophy".

Typically, "corruption" would imply hypocrisy. So, people who point to  "corruption"  are saying that the predominant professed philosophy is not driving history. Rather, it is driven by an unspoken (pseudo-selfish) philosophy that uses the predominant philosophy as cover. 

 

An example would be: "The idea that the government ought to redistribute wealth on a coercive altruistic basis is not responsible for re-distributive laws. Rather our leaders and some segments of the population use that altruistic philosophy for their own gain (i.e. actually following some type of pseudo-selfish philosophy)".

 

Another example would be: "Saudi rulers do not really believe all the extreme religion they profess -- as evidenced by their own gross violations. Rather, they use religion to keep their population under control."

 

I don't agree with those arguments, but that is the basic argument.

 

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Corruption doesn't drive history. Corruption holds back history. Like JASKN explained in post number two, corruption is defined as a function of the dominant philosophy (it's its opposite).

If the opposite becomes the dominant philosophy, then it cannot be called corruption anymore.

An example would be: "The idea that the government ought to redistribute wealth on a coercive altruistic basis is not responsible for re-distributive laws. Rather our leaders and some segments of the population use that altruistic philosophy for their own gain (i.e. actually following some type of pseudo-selfish philosophy)".

The dominant philosophy in the West is pragmatism. The actions of western voters and politicians are very much in line with that philosophy.

Another example would be: "Saudi rulers do not really believe all the extreme religion they profess -- as evidenced by their own gross violations. Rather, they use religion to keep their population under control."

Saudi rulers' hypocrisy isn't driving Saudi Arabia (or the countries under their sphere of influence). Saudi Arabia looks very much like the purported vision of its rulers: a traditional Islamic kingdom ruled by the House of Saud, with a society based on Islamic values, that exists in peace and economic cooperation with the West.

If anything, the corruption (be it in the form of debauchery or money funneled off to terror groups) is holding back that vision, and causing conflict. If the corruption becomes pervasive enough, then it will simply destroy the House of Saud, and they will be replaced (most likely along with the part of their vision that seeks peaceful coexistence with the West).

We have vast populations of deeply religious people in the world who have built entire nations based on principles that contradict their own religion's teachings

Just because you randomly state something that just so happens supports your argument (you know, stuff like "gold will be at $600 soon" or "defense and law enforcement costs 20% of GDP"), doesn't make it true. We don't have vast populations of deeply religious people in secular countries. You made that up.
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If that was directed at me, by corruption I mean bad choices.  That is about as fundamental as I can take the concept. 

 

How do we determine choices?  Philosophy, by conscious choice or unconscious choice, both through evading facts. 

 

An morality of the Government merely affects the choices given, not how we choose from those choices or the standard we use to judge.  

 

My comment was directed at Crow. 

 

I do not believe for example, a man who undermines a morally wrong state (say a theocracy or fascist dictatorship), even by dishonesty and "hypocrisy" is corrupt, especially if his goals and reasons are virtuous.  An immoral man is an irrational man, that generally stems from bad philosophy and manifests itself with immoral behaviors which include what one normally associates with corruption.

 

 

Essentially actions one associates with corruption are actions which are immoral, but immorality is caused by bad philosophy.

 

Maybe I just don't get it...

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My comment was directed at Crow. 

 

I do not believe for example, a man who undermines a morally wrong state (say a theocracy or fascist dictatorship), even by dishonesty and "hypocrisy" is corrupt, especially if his goals and reasons are virtuous.  An immoral man is an irrational man, that generally stems from bad philosophy and manifests itself with immoral behaviors which include what one normally associates with corruption.

 

 

Essentially actions one associates with corruption are actions which are immoral, but immorality is caused by bad philosophy.

 

Maybe I just don't get it...

 

You're over-analyzing this. Corruption is somebody becoming a cop so they can legally rob a store owner.  Or a judge who throws a case one way or another based on an envelope full of cash. Or somebody who cannot go to the police after being attacked by XYZ because the police are being paid off by XYZ.

 

And as the OP's link (anybody viewed it yet?) demonstrates, it's not the corruption itself that causes shifts of history, it's often the reaction to the corruption. In other words, after a population has had it up to here with petty cleptocrats, they look for a solution--and that solution is a dictatorship in some (ideologically rationalized) form or another.

 

The behavior in question here is pure criminal behavior, which has been shunned for thousands of years by virtually all organized religions.

 

Oh, and immorality is not "caused by bad philosophy". Totally orthogonal. Immorality is caused by humans deciding to be immoral.

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And as the OP's link (anybody viewed it yet?) demonstrates, it's not the corruption itself that causes shifts of history, it's often the reaction to the corruption. In other words, after a population has had it up to here with petty cleptocrats, they look for a solution--and that solution is a dictatorship in some (ideologically rationalized) form or another.

You basically said "history is caused by people adapting to the world". Philosophy as a driver of history constitutes the how. Saying that corruption drives history is probably the smallest piece here. And anyway people don't decide to be immoral usually, deciding to be immoral is taking a philosophical stance on morality. It's not like corruption is simply an isolated decision unrelated to moral positions... Even if a person rejects any moral positions so is cool with being corrupt, philosophy affects what a person does. History isn't really more than a set of actions that add up to history of the world.

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You basically said "history is caused by people adapting to the world". Philosophy as a driver of history constitutes the how. Saying that corruption drives history is probably the smallest piece here. And anyway people don't decide to be immoral usually, deciding to be immoral is taking a philosophical stance on morality. It's not like corruption is simply an isolated decision unrelated to moral positions... Even if a person rejects any moral positions so is cool with being corrupt, philosophy affects what a person does. History isn't really more than a set of actions that add up to history of the world.

 

So some brute who just wants money/power/sex is doing it... for philosophical reasons? Because he's carefully considered his moral code, and it's come out in favor of... debauchery?

 

Visit a skid row police station some time and hang out there for a few hours. Tell me what you see. Ask the compelled visitors there about their philosophy of life. Let me know what they say. :-)

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Individuals like Rand, Kant, Aristotle and Plato recognized they were driven by, and consequently drove their philosophies.

 

Others, as the examples you cite, and society in general, are driven by their implicitly held philosophy, and the implicitly held philosophy of those around them. To ask them, would be fruitless, IMHO.

Edited by dream_weaver
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So some brute who just wants money/power/sex is doing it... for philosophical reasons? Because he's carefully considered his moral code, and it's come out in favor of... debauchery?

Carefully considered? Probably not. It's still philosophical though.

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