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Anil Rajvanshi

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Debate: Is corruption a moral or a legal issue?

Too often the corruption debate and discussions all over the world are focused on how somebody broke a law. By that definition Mahatma Gandhi was the most corrupt man since he periodically broke British laws!

By dictionary definition corruption relates to doing things which are not ethical.

Hence how should the corruption be defined and fought for greater good?

  • Nov 2 2012: To continue...corruption is allowed to happen because we haven't decided on what to use to do two things: decide what is good (things that improve the environment and the species or provide additional resources above what are consumed), and then ensure that everyone is working toward the good by being useful to other people. Corruption is a form of exploitation, where some person or persons use more than their fair share of resources to extract usefulness from others or from the future environment. Debt is one of these corrupt tools in some ways, because it is a promise (usually coerced or deceptive) to consume resources in the future in order to obtain gain in the present. When a nation creates debt, it is promising to increase the rate of consumption of citizens in order to pay back that debt somehow (usually not in ways that are clearly available or stated). The reason corruption isn't illegal is simply because our future selves and our weaker selves don't have the same rights as present selves or powerful groups (bullies, tricksters, etc). I don't mean to emphasize monetary means. Any behavior that exploits other people is using power to corrupt a social situation, and instead of monetary cost, it is a cost to social stability, which is a resource important to modeling some kind of civil future. Dishonesty, coercion, and aggrandizement are all consumptive behaviors. Legal restrictions do not seek the opposite, merely to limit them. "The opposite of consumption is not frugality", as Raj Patel says: it is generosity. The opposite of Dishonesty is honesty, not less dishonesty. The opposite of coercion is not less coercion, but cooperation. The antithesis of corruption is humble, honest cooperation. We need to work on that more.
    • Nov 3 2012: I feel like you have spoken into my being. The following documentary may interest you: /watch?v=KphWsnhZ4Ag
      People as passionate as you are needed for change... like most of the individuals involved in TED Conversations as well.
  • Oct 30 2012: mind is best servant, bad commander. corruption is self deceit, it will continue till it is caught and punished. any act do not harm self /society, besides benefits enhancement of moral and ethical code is invited. it is an evil force which needs to be uprooted from planet.
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      Nov 3 2012: Re: "mind is best servant, bad commander."

      Who would be a good commander, then?

      Re: " it is an evil force which needs to be uprooted from planet."

      It must be uprooted from our own hearts first. It grows within, from our own pride and greed, without us even noticing it.
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      Nov 3 2012: " Mind is best servant, bad commander "

      This hits the nail on the head.
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        Nov 3 2012: "Reason is, and ought to be, only the slave of the passions." - David Hume
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          Nov 3 2012: The good and only right commander is the Heart not the emotions and never "the passions".
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        Nov 3 2012: I guess, that's what Hume meant. It's just a matter of how we say it.

        There are 3 relevant definitions of the "heart":
        3. the center of the total personality, especially with reference to intuition, feeling, or emotion: In your heart you know I'm an honest man.
        4. the center of emotion, especially as contrasted to the head as the center of the intellect: His head told him not to fall in love, but his heart had the final say.
        5. capacity for sympathy; feeling; affection: His heart moved him to help the needy.

        In this sense, passions and emotions come "from the heart", while reason comes "from the head". I think, that's too much reasoning on this subject. It's hard to say exactly what this all means, only possible to feel it :-)
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        Nov 4 2012: "Thinking with one's heart" is called "feeling".
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          Nov 4 2012: Hi Arkady,

          I understand what you are saying and sense that you and I are well in agreement on this concept.

          "Thinking with one's heart is called "feeling" - is misleading, hence not a constructive statement.

          We can learn a lot from Alexander the Great. Feeling a feeling, drove Alexander to level civilizations that had taken eleven thousand years to build. He was great and no matter how much everyone adored him, he was still not satisfied until he would be absolute ruler on top of the world. He was a genius (war-wise) and got there fast. On his death bed, however, at the age of 32, he finally connected to his inner wisdom and understood that all humans are the same. His dying rule and wish was for the "whole world "(the east and the west) to live as one. Thus Mount Nemrut. So "thinking with one's heart", means matching one's intention with the universal good. This is my view:-)
  • Nov 3 2012: law is puppet in the hands of politicians. greediness is the root of corruption. ruling is in the hands of profit building
    business people. they are the investors for political campaign and makers of government. can we expect ethics from these people?
    • Nov 3 2012: Business people and the governments have power because the people allow them to have it. The rich get richer because the poor work for them and buy their stuff. The underlying problem, then, is the ignorance of the somnambulant public that ignores evidence, chooses blind faith over actuality, and listens to their "heart" instead of knowing how to use reason properly and to cooperate instead of competing for the favors of the rich and powerful. The question of servant versus commander lies in the belief in some commander being more able to command. The servant who actually serves the future of their own circumstances does not need a commander, or a god, or even an icon to tell them they are making their circumstances better for their children. Humans choose to live in a false reality because they can invent facts and follow their desires without consequences in the false version of reality. To live in your dreams is to ignore the natural reality that we are part of. Civilization is a way to isolate ourselves from the risks and demands of the natural world. When civilization makes corruption part of itself by using laws to punish after the fact of the corruption, then it is accepting that corruption at some level. The specialization and isolation of various people (police, government, business, etc) from the general population causes suspicion and allows secretive behaviors. The natural alternative would be to randomize the processes: select people at random to perform those duties, rather than specialists. In a corrupt country, the people have to force revolution or seek outside assistance. Sometimes they can do so peacefully through strikes or nonviolent actions. Sometimes power only understands power, and that too often means using numbers to overpower money or technology.
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    Nov 12 2012: Law is fundamentally grounded on moral grounds/ethical principles... It's very nature is studied through philosophy or is it jurisprudence. Hence I think that ultimately, corruption ought to be seen as a moral issue that requires lawful repercussions to chastise and maintain ethical foundations of a society.
  • Nov 4 2012: Good day all,
    Today is my first on this visionary network, am so glad to be part of this discussion, I am an african and grew up in Africa, when growing up we were taught morals first as a guiding principle of life, morals tends to encompass the whole package of societal life, in aspects of behaviour,and actoin within each social group.
    This traditionalist approach of the african society thought as individuals to own up for our failures and wrong. Doings, this in essence means that CORRUPTION been a subject of discource either been a MORAL or LEGAL issue, for me I think its more. Moral one than the former,because when the society as a whole is conscious to a certain phenomenon, they do not need the government to bring their attention to it in the first place, but ironically in Africa today , we see the worst case scenarios of wide spread corruption& its vices, so what went wrong? Standards! Our standars have fallen and are gone, so we now need the government to help us out with these problem through legal means, but. One question we should all ask is ? How far can the government go to even check itself of this cancerous monster, onlyy answer to this is when we take this back to our communities .
    Finally I personally think that CORRUPTION as a phenomenon is a moral issue and should be tackled through community based means by reorientation of our people to these social ills.
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    Oct 27 2012: Easy - you only need one rule - "Do to others what you would have them do to you". or indeed the reverse. You shall find that this covers almost everything.

    Is that a legal or moral stand? I have no idea, when legality differs from moral values, if those moral values can pass the above test then morality must be correct. Interestingly this definition covers both the local cultural and societal values too. These of course change over time and place. That's why the above definition is so powerful. It should always be applicable even in a thousand years on a far off planet or to any sentient species.

    see: Hello Anyone There?
  • Oct 25 2012: Anil Rajvanshi said/asked:

    "OK there seems to be a good debate on what corruption is. How do we control it? Any thoughts and ideas?"
    Get rid of the reasons for it. Or, in another word, get rid of the causes.
    Take the idea of someone who is considered to have what is labeled, a "criminal mind".
    Is there really such a thing? Posters here have already mentioned that corruption is everywhere, that it is huge, and spread out, in virtually every kind of institution and human interactions, while another writes that "everyone neglects" the ideas that already exist to control corruption.
    Rarely, if ever mentioned, is the idea that by getting rid of the causes/reasons for corruption, society could effectively get rid of corruption. It makes sense. If there are no reasons to be a criminal, no causes, then people don't become/get corrupted.
    Back to the criminal mind. One cannot observe, study and conclude accurately, that one has a criminal mind until and unless said subject commits a crime in a society in which there are no reasons for doing so. It isn't human nature at all, unless you consider the desire and will to survive, unnatural and/or morally wrong. Well, it isn't. It is behavior, bad behavior for the most part, but I think we cannot and should not, condemn and label others simply for trying to survive.
    How can survival be morally wrong? It isn't. And laws prove they don't work to solve the problem. I am foolishly assuming that people would like to "solve" the problem or problems humans have. Perhaps most don't. If not, they shouldn't complain and falsely label what they consider negative changes in society in general to be from moral decline.

    Studies have been done for about or at least 100 years and show that virtually all crime (corruption) is directly connected to money. A smaller percentage is still indirectly connected to money. Most will scoff at this at once, demean it, dismiss it and demonize it. (continued)
    • Oct 28 2012: I like a lot of what you said but i kind of disagree that all crime is about money. The reasoning i have is that most crimes are done by individuals who are only thinking of themselves instead of the ones they are "violating" for lack of a better word. Many of the poorer people commit crimes out of survival and necessity, while the individuals "of means" are only thinking of how they can take more. I feel like its a neverending cycle. If the moms and dads are too busy working to put food on the table to teach their children about responsibility and respect, then we will always have people breaking laws to get what they want.
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    Oct 25 2012: Corruption has a tendency to often be associated with monetary gain. Corruption is the means in which a democracy can be reduced to oligarchy through egoism and exploitation. It was not illegal for Robert Mugabe to raise taxes by 500%, resulting in Zimbabwe's prosperity to continue on its downward spiral to the point of no return; this was not illegal, yet universally agreed as corrupt. For me, ethical is not synonymous with corruption. Ethical warfare is tantamount to the enemy being blindsided and slaughtered in the limelight of their own vulnerability - a damn good thrashing. Yet, if sabotage was a factor in the exposure of the infantry, it would be deemed corrupt on the part of the renegade. Corruption is the antonym to altruism. Gandhi sacrificed law for the emancipation of India - true liberty can exist only when its motive is autonomy. Corruption is rife in the animal kingdom in the form of self-interest - survival of the fittest (Dawkins discusses this extensively in his book 'The Selfish Gene'). Corruption reduces us to animals, it is regressive and evident to be categorically immoral as even its bearers are aware of their iniquity. As for fighting it? I suppose it depends on the specificities of the matter, but my only advice would be to take a page out of Gandhi's book; perseverance, selflessness and honesty.
  • Oct 24 2012: I don't think you can address one without addressing the other. Corruption comes in so many different forms in so many different levels and different intensities, it can definitely be a moral issue but depending on the form of corruption it can also be a legal issue.
  • Nov 17 2012: Let's first study the relationship of the legal system and the moral values in a society. I would say that the legal system is generally decided or influenced by the moral standard of the whole, or a part, of the society. For example, the Robin Hood behavior was considered illegal because his behavior was not acceptable by the particular society at that time. But in the socialistic countries in modern times, it is completely legitimate to TAX the rich and GIVE it to the poor. Another issue like abortion,there are countries which legislatively treat abortion as illegal by religious moral ground, while in some countries like China, it is ILLEGAL to NOT HAVE AN ABORTION for the second pregnancy of a couple based on the government policy. So the legality or the moral values of almost any behavior, including corruption, have been different (evolving) from time to time and from country to country.
    Also, as far as I know, there are countries where bribe-taking or bribe-giving is more or less implicitly permitted by the the prosecutors in most legal system. And in some systems, the formal salaries of certain officials are not sufficient to support a family, thus the bribes are treated as part of one's pay anyway.
    In summary, the morality or the legality of corruptions is determined basically by the value system of a particular society at a particular time, determined by the evolution of the value system of the majority of the members in the society.
  • Nov 17 2012: Great question with an astute observation!
    It could be both moral and legal issue, but ultimately, it's definitely a moral issue, I think.
    Corrupt people with power can legitimize their wrongdoing.
    What Robin Hood does is illegal but I wouldn’t concur with the view that he is corrupt.
    For him, "robbing from the rich and giving to the poor" is a way to serve justice—equality. That is, his intention isn’t corrupt. His resentment for greedy, rich people isn’t out of corruptness. Provided laws should belong to ethics, even illegal things could be moral in some cases.
    It’s all about one’s intention and the methods—with rationalization—he use.
    (But there is a line. If people do all the illegitimate things by justifying that it’s for justice, a society gets anarchic and the law abiding spirit(which is ethical) disappears. And justifying anything willy-nilly would provoke another version of corruptness. )
  • Nov 17 2012: Given that anticorruption laws are passed sometimes by people who are themselves at least partially corrupt and enforced by institutions which may not always in fully independent and often staffed by people who are nominated by the same corrupt politicians, we cannot rely on the law to effectively deal with corruption. There will always be looholes in the law. In many countries political party financing by large corporations is not considered a bribe and is considered legal. And yet we know that this practice is often at the root of a lot of corrupt practices. This brings us back to the question of who writes the law. We are potentially in a conflict of interest situation. Thus, I would argue that corruption should first and foremost be considered a moral issue.
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    Nov 13 2012: Both, I think. To obey a law is one thing but doing because you love is far better.
  • Nov 11 2012: Corruption is a process where the other person demands a favor from you ,to do what you expect him to do due to his legal responsibility towards you. But , he doesn't do so unless and until he is not motivated or inspired by offering hm a tangible or intangible favor.

    In India the prime movers of corruption is "Duniyadari" and "Vyahvarikta". To run duniaydari you have to be "Vyavharik" ,"Be practical". And duniadari involves dealing with family and society. And to run the family and deal with the society , momey is needed . Life is short , and no body wants to go through the lengthy process of making money.
  • Nov 8 2012: Corruption and morality are separate acts; saying that, I believe that more often than not, corruption is an act is the result of moral degradation.

    Corruption is civil, legal, community oriented and socially defined by society as a collective. Morals are internally grounded and based on personal core beliefs that define our humanity and individuality.
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    Nov 6 2012: Corruption is global problem, and at first, it's a society problem. I belive and imagine it as organization, so strong, invisible, and it has "wide deep roots inside". With a regular kind of opinion, opinion we have got in school, while the education, this problem is so complex and apstract. Hard for understanding.
    we can see that this problem is not "young" or "brand new". Old movies as "Godfather", "Scarface" represent it as a normal in high layers of society. So we can use a field of ethic, and ask,
    why is that normal in high layers of society?
    Who are the people that leading country, and
    Why are they corupted?
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      Nov 6 2012: Jelena,
      I agree with your insightful comments. Corruption is a global challenge with wide deep roots, which is not a new challenge in our world. One really important statement you make, which I see as a big part of the challenge, is that we often perceive it as "normal". So, in some respects, we accept corruption as a "normal" part of being human. How or why would we change something that on some levels we believe is "normal"?

      You ask some great questions that might help us understand and deal with corruption...why do we consider corruption in any way "normal"? Why are some people corrupt and why do we continue to accept it?
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        Nov 6 2012: I omitted the field of legality. Is the corruption legal? Offcourse it is! And it is the main paradox! How? Well, who makes law in one country? It is the corruptive layers. They make law that provides "legal rob". Very big percent of politicans has "legaly rob money".
        And there is an answer to the question "why do we act as it is normal". We act like that, because, it is impossible to act in a different way. If we want to stop corrupition, we have to have, as good relations, deep roots, as corruptive groups. And, in XXI centory, they are too clever, and we are too predictive.
        I think, change is possible, only if we change the order. At all.
      • Nov 17 2012: Hi, Colleen
        I think people are pretty smooth when it comes to justifying themselves. As we see from many politicians, businessmen and brokers, glibness works, and even has positive effects on others' perspectives. So the word 'normal' we use to rationalize corruption is a clever yet, pathetic excuse, but isn't morally right. It just does not ring true in our minds. A number of people tend to believe what prevails among them is ‘normal’. Some might argue it isn’t, but the way people use this definition: ‘normal’ highly depends on a majority’s thoughts. And they start to differentiate between what’s right and what’s normal. So in that case, even if something is a right and moral thing to do, if it’s such a rare case, corruption could be justified by its frequency, which we call ‘normal’. I assume one way to solve this common misconception of corruption is to narrow a gap between moral duties—if you will—and social interactions in reality. Provided people think moral standards are too high to meet, and regard it as ideal goals, they give themselves a room for compromise, further, corruption in excuse of ‘inevitable’ reality. Some sincere religious people with strong convictions would succeed in maintaining their integrity by not being involved in corruption. Their strong religious ethics would be plausible factors that prevent them from any corruption. On the other hand, quite a few cleverer corrupt religious leaders take advantage of their moral standards to justify what they do. In that case, corruption gets uglier and more repulsive. People can be selfish, manipulative and unconsciously self-deceiving, and that could be normal. Corruption is the dirtiest outcome of these chaotic traits with rationalization and wrong interpretation. We know corruption is a bad thing. And we also know we can avoid being corrupt as long as we pursue transparency and justice. So, it is normal to think that corruption is not right. Thinking that corruption is normal is self-deceiving.
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          Nov 22 2012: I agree Elizabeth that some folks can be "smooth" when it comes to justifying their actions. This seems to be connected to the other conversation we are involved in? Where do thoughts come from? People can often "think" the thoughts which they believe to justify their actions, and I agree Elizabeth, that it is often a rather "pathetic excuse", which we can generally see through.

          Again Elizabeth, you hit the nail on the head!!! Many corrupt actions are "normalized" and therefor accepted over time. Also, as you say, many leaders take advantage of their positions as leaders to justify certain corrupt or immoral actions....we've seen that too many times throughout history.

          I agree that corruption is not in any way, shape or form good for our local, national, or global societies, thinking corruption is normal is self-deceiving, and the way we can change corruption, is to pursue transparency. Each and every one of us can be mindfully aware as we decide what is normal and/or beneficial to ourselves as individuals AND beneficial and productive to the whole of our global society.

          P.S. I would like to give you MANY thumbs up for your previous comment, and unfortunately, I've maxed out for you this week! Sending you a smile and a hug:>)
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      Nov 7 2012: I think you will find some food for thought in this article on corruption and greed. http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-09-19/edit-page/30175385_1_desire-corruption-greed

      If we reduce our own greed then corruption can be reduced and nearly eliminated from this world.

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    Nov 5 2012: I believe corruption is both moral and legal issue. Legislation used to be employed for corruption maintenance.
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    Nov 4 2012: Morality is the only defense against corruption. A law maker without morals will propagate and legislate corruptive practices.
  • Nov 3 2012: i want to tell a story..
    a woman went to police station to complain against gang rape, later she was asked to accept a request from police to please him, so that he can accelerate investigation.
    that is what is happening to a common man. business people are making money in various sectors, besides the present demands of the day like petrol, power, telephone, gas, and duty on television besides alcohol, tobacco products have become inevitable. the government has taken the opportunity as best time to hike the prices. man has become slave to the above commodities and accepting the hike in prices, since he can not live with out them. when government is finding the people as consumers, what ethics can we expect from politicians?
  • Nov 2 2012: All questions are ethical questions in reality because the legal and ethical debate takes a back seat to our future needs. In other words, we have to first ask "what are people for?" in order to decide any question of what actions to take. This is, of course, assuming there is intentionality in your overall philosophy. Many people let ethical questions be left to culture, which is an open loop process that doesn't really consider our future needs. We need to close the loop between future usefulness of ourselves and our species, and our ability to act in the present.
  • Nov 2 2012: law is flexible. it is amended time to time. what is legal may be immoral. a moral issue can not be illegal. it is eternal.
  • Oct 29 2012: Both or just one,or none,depends on were you live.
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    Oct 28 2012: Sometimes, what is right is illegal, and what is legal is morally wrong. Corrupt societies often have corrupt laws. Morality is primary, laws are secondary. Legal changes follow changes in morality, not the other way around.

    Corruption is a cultural issue. It creates a vicious cycle. In corrupt societies, everyone "condemns" bribery, but everyone gives and takes bribes, because nothing is getting done without them. It becomes a custom. When "good" people are offered a position of power, they start taking bribes, because they are offered too frequently and often look like "gratitude", and the "giver" might even look "offended" if the bribe is rejected. Also, everyone around, including friends and family, would consider them fools not to take what's being offered. Positions of power are coveted for this reason. There are laws against bribery in such countries, but they don't work until there is a shift in public mentality.

    Government system does not seem to matter much. E.g., in Russia, corruption flourished for centuries, under monarchies, communists, and nowadays.
  • Oct 25 2012: (continued)

    Others will come up with a few crimes that are not connected to money (there are some), and thus dismiss what I have said because the riddance of crime is not 100%.

    I also then assume they think that having the 100% of crime and corruption that we now have is better and means a better and safer world than having corruption and crime reduced to only 3% or 4%. If it isn't perfect it is thrown out. Huh! Go figure.
    Well, it isn't better but it is familiar and might be one reason why people cannot or will not imagine a world that can function without money and without crime. It's familiar, it's emotional, and has become part of their societal/community family. Family and familiar are similar in spelling, and that is the spell they are under when it comes to seeing and admitting the truth.

    People are whistling in the dark like a frightened child trying to brace themselves when and if they continue to think, believe or espouse that what we need are more ethical leaders, blah, blah, blah. You cannot ever get that in 1. an unjust system, and 2. in any system where there are good reasons for not being ethical or for being corrupt.

    Worldwide, we have to meet the needs of all humans, without money. In fact, if and when the global economy collapses, that is exactly what will need to happen rather than what might happen and that is where those in power use more fear tactics to entice, coax and corral the global population into THEIR SOLUTION. There is a good chance they may present it as, a or the, final solution, but it won't be.
    Neither was the creation of the Federal Reserve the end of inflation/recession/depression, as the big one happened just 5 years after the Fed creation. Fed. Fed. Yeah, they are fed off the backs of the populace. They are parasites and parasites capitalize on weakened hosts and on what the hosts don't know.

    That is why it is called capitalism, or as in your debate title, "corruption".

    Put another way, capitalism = corruption
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    Oct 25 2012: there are many ideas to control corruption and a most corrupt person also have these ideas and i think we all know how to control it but everyone neglects it.
  • Oct 25 2012: Corruption is systemic. The biggest factor I see leading up towards it, is money. One can argue about individual morality, but when the system itself is corrupt, the higher the probability of individual corruption. I certainly don't see Gandhi being corrupt in that sense, if you will, because he himself was facing of a corrupt system. A double standard morality where the system tends to view the opposing morals as corrupt.

    'Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.' Want to guess what money represents?
  • Oct 24 2012: Non of the above. Corruption is an environmental and educational issue. If we have a socioeconomic system that is based on artificial scarce resources that perpetuate narrow self-interests in order to survive, corrupted behavior will occur. And if a child is brought up in a corrupted environment and sees nothing else, the child will naturally become corrupted because the brain can't decipher or differentiate between good and bad. It only reacts to the environment. Therefore one can't talk about values, behaviors and actions without taking the environment into consideration.
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    Oct 24 2012: Immoral acts can be legal and illegal acts can be moral. The law is an arbitrary human construct. Morality is transcendental. For example the unprovoked, unjustified killing of an innocent human being is infrangibly immoral, but not always illegal. Corruption is an effect of lawbreaking, not of immorality.
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    Oct 22 2012: It's both. The concept of laws originated in an attempt to apply moral standards to society as mankind evolved into civilizations. Most laws today originated from moral concepts and/or beliefs. Corruption is both a moral and legal issue today, and it would be difficult to separate the two. Whether someone is ethical in today's society (in accordance with the dictionary definition you provided) is both a moral and legal issue. Most of the debates you refer to are actually disagreements concernng which should take priority...morals only vs the laws.
  • Nov 21 2012: http://www.lemauricien.com/article/leadership-and-corruption

    The above link would take us to an article I published recently in the local press on this issue of corruption ... I shall be pleased to read your comments. Thank you.