Sunday 15 May 2016


Corruption has been in the news lately due to some comments made by our prime minister. This got me thinking about the left vs right political arguments I have participated in or observed. Often in the cause of such arguments folks end up citing one historical example or another were things went horribly wrong. The retort given is often; ‘that’s not a real example of <political system> that came about due to corruption among the folks administering the system.'

I’m now getting to the point where I begin to wonder if we should just accept that human beings tend toward corruption and we should craft a system that can cope with that. (I would argue, by not centralising too much power in the hands of the state, but that’s not my main point today.)

Now I know some folks will say I sound unnecessarily bleak and I ought to have more faith in the nobility of humanity. I think, actually, lots of people find joy in being corrupt. Even when they do not gain in a tangible way. Allow me to explain.

I spent a deal of my youth in Liverpool and I remember being told, many times, about the tax trial of Ken Dodd. The short version, for the uninformed is essentially:

· Well liked comedian.

· Arrested for non-payment of tax.

· Lots of evidence.

· Jury lets him off, because they can.

People in Liverpool tend to be rather proud of this story, despite it clearly being an example of dishonest conduct by someone in a position of power.

It feels good to cut someone a break. Even if you know you are not supposed to. Even, if you have no reasonable expectation of personal reward. This is particularly evident if you examine the way people tend to be more helpful and bend rules in whatever capacity they can when dealing with the well liked, wealthy or people they find attractive. Not because they actually expect some form of quid pro quo but because it feels good to help people, it feels better to help people you like.

My point is only this, given that this is the way the world works for the rest of us, why do we craft political systems on the basis that the people elected to them will be bastions of incorruptibility? Shouldn’t we just get over the fact that people tend to do favours for people – and then craft a political system that limits the damage that can be done by any one individual?

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