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Robert Winner

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Is corruption limited to individuals or can a system be corrupt?

SCOTUS is hearing a argument that defines corruption. At stake is campaign financing.

The question is at the base of the McCrutcheon V FEC and the Constitutionality of the American Anti-corruption Act.

The argument centers around lobbies making big "donations" for the right to have access to law makers and influence the decision making.

This decision is very important and could potentially change the way elections are run and the way the government operates.

So is corruption limited to individuals or can a system be corrupt?

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    Dec 30 2013: I thin it is the nature of the system that leads to the corruption of individuals(by system i mean both the political and economic aspects). If the system allows for such actions, then individuals will engage in it. It is true that people can be good and bad but I think much of our environment is endowed within our consciousness starting at a very young age.
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    Dec 29 2013: Systems are composed of Individuals. Various individuals can be corrupt which can make the system seem corrupt, or the system (/rules) can force people to be corrupt to protect their interests. However this question greatly depends on your definition of 'Corrupt'.
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      Dec 29 2013: Bernard....you're back! I agree...systems are composed of individuals....individuals can corrupt, which can make the system seem corrupt:>)
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        Dec 30 2013: Ha! Nice to see you again Colleen Steen. :D
        I have just been rather busy recently.
        This interesting question rather reminds me of the Line from Philip Zimbardo's Talk (The Psychology of Evil - http://www.ted.com/talks/philip_zimbardo_on_the_psychology_of_evil.html) : 'the system creates the situation which can influence the person'. Might have got that slightly wrong. :P
        However it raises an interesting, mainly semantic, question regarding this issue. Because systems are created and made up of people, and yet the system can change individuals...
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          Jan 5 2014: Bernard,
          It seems like that quote can go either way?

          "The system creates the situation which can influence the person", AND, each person helps create situations which can influence the systems?

          Systems ARE made up of people, and enough people influencing the system in one way or the other can create change.

          An example of this is Ted Stevens - R representative in the U.S. Senate for 40 years. He was finally convicted of 7 felony charges, and in 2008 "narrowly lost" to the opponent.

          It appears that he was re-elected over and over again, and might have been AGAIN, because he STILL apparently had supporters, demonstrated by the fact that he "narrowly lost" the vote. He had 7 felony convictions! How much information do people have to have to understand that he was not honestly serving ALL of his constituents??? At least ENOUGH individuals looked at the facts, and he was not re-elected. Enough people voting, had the ability to change that situation.
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    Dec 27 2013: Robert,
    Systems are made up of people, so it is possible that there can be some people within a system who are corrupt, and the whole system is not corrupt.

    The example you give, of lobbyists providing big money to insure access to law makers and influence decisions, seems to involve more than a few people, and in my perception, it seems to be a system that is not appropriately serving the majority of people in our country. Is it corruption when we allow a system like that to grow with awareness of its existence? Are we, the people, a party to the dysfunction?
  • Dec 27 2013: I feel corruption is individual oriented . But corrupt individuals make the system corrupt . The need of the hour is individuals with honesty and integrity in all spheres and at all levels. That will mend even a corrupt system
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    Dec 24 2013: As the other guys said, system is made of a group of people. Thus when you have a group of corrupt individuals in a system, the system becomes corrupt as well.

    Even when there are only a few people in the system whose corrupted, you still risk they will infect their corruption to the whole system. Because human beings tend to follow group conformity in order to fit in or be accepted by their surroundings. It really tests one's integrity when the person is placed in a corrupt community, will they succumb to the group's norm (and be corrupt together) or stick with their conviction?
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      Dec 24 2013: Dewi, A computer program is not a person but can be corrupt ... We (USA) hate Bernie Madoff because he was a inside trader, and sent him to prison ... but Congress has made insider trading legal for its members therefore the person is no longer corrupt ... but rather the system is. Nancy Polosi made millions off of her own vote ... yet she is respected and Madoff is in prison. How about super PACS that buy access to the law makers ... and influence through "donations" that can legally be withdrawn by the senator / representative.

      The system may have been corrupted by men ... but it makes no difference ... it is corrupt.

      If I am in business and make a bid for a project ... I have set time, money, manpower, etc ... to get the job done ... There are all sorts of penalties. But if I am the government ... I can screw things up, lie, deceive, cause havoc within private industry, impose my will on individuals and corporations continually adjust the time lines, and use the citizens unlimited money to get my way .... that is a picture of a corrupt system and the corrupt system being abused.

      There is no doubt about corruption in politics .. the most frequent visitors to the White House are #1 George Soros and #2 Union leaders. One begin by Karl Marx and one who funds 60+ organization to support socialism and One World Government with him at the head as the King of the World. If that type of influence does not scare you you are not capable of fear.

      So the next time a machine at the bank takes your card .. charges your account and keeps the money ... find the little person in there who did that or go to the manager and say the machine is corrupt / broken.

      Thanks for the reply. Bob.
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        Dec 25 2013: I must say I'm not familiar with US domestic politics, but nevertheless the political structure, the legal system, the parliament are made of people. The Congress that legalized insider trading are made of a group of people. Even computer systems are made by people. Thus the corrupt system could be a result of: (a) intentionally made that way to serve the interest of its maker/the people within the system, or (b) by error - which is more easily visible when you apply it to machines such as computer, drones, etc. Maybe there's the (c) option that doesn't apply for the the cases above, such as natural cause, or a third party.

        Happy Holiday, Bob!
      • Dec 25 2013: Bob,

        Bernie Madoff ran a ponzi scheme which is straight stealing, nothing to do with inside trading. A better example is Martha Stewart who was sent to prision for inside trading.
  • Jan 12 2014: Both Individuals and entire systems are corrupt to such an egregious extent that citizens of the United States should be ashamed of what has become of the ideal country that was created by the founding fathers.

    Americans have been misled by the distractions of Red versus Blue, but have completely missed the big Lies that sneaked right past them in plain daylight.

    1. The IRS and Federal Reserve were created in 1913 and the US Dollar is now worth less than 5 cents compared to the days of sound money.

    2. War is meant to be a solution of last resort for the defense of the country, not something we get fooled into supporting to raise money for the Military Industrial Complex.

    3. Congress was sold to the highest bidder a long time ago and history has even seen the Presidentcy purchased a couple of times, with McKinley and Wilson being supported by the Banksters. Both Red and Blue serve the same money wielding masters and they are not the people of the United States.

    4. Corrporatioins are not people, but they can certainly fire people in the US and hire lower priced labor abroad. As long as the boards of one company are controlled by the leaders of other corporations in an infinite loop of elite corruption.

    5. Insider trader, High frequency trading, LIBOR manipulation, Precious Metals manipulatioin, etc.. are all accomplished within corrupt systems,

    6. Government servents of the people magically rotate to multimillion dollar positions in Industries they were suppossed to be regulating, etc.. The SEC, CFTC, have not sent any of the real criminals to jail in a decade of financial crime.
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    Dec 30 2013: Robert, I answer your questions (I hope express myself well, despite my poor English ):

    While it is true that today, more than ever, media suffer some kind of dependence of economic interests , it is also true that the most of media and journalists, are honest and struggle daily to communicate the truth of what happens to citizens. We must be confident, alert, but confident. Usually, media and journalist do their job well and honestly.

    The second answer is 'yes'. It is true that some politicians can lie to citizens ( happens everywhere in the world) , but in the end , voters detect the lies and bad rulers receive punishment. Do not forget that democracy is not a perfect system but it is the best system of government we can achieve. I really like the democracy, and I know what is to live under another type of political regime.

    In my opinion, we have to accept that there are bad things in our systems of government , but we also count with the protection of the law and good policy , good judges and the help of good citizens ( most are so ) to remove what is wrong in our civil government systems.

    It's probably I'm speaking about an utopia , but we must try, every day, to permeate our social action with that spirit of correction, Justice, and Law.

    Besides, what else can we do?

    Greets.
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    Dec 29 2013: Robert it appears to me that LLCs and and other types of corporations are even more likely to be corrupt than individuals. This is only logical because responsibility is both limited and dispersed in both.(ie..Limited Liability Corporation) Union Carbide caused thousands of deaths at Bhopal India but no one went to jail. As I remember they payed a pitiful blood price for some of the immediate victims and then declared bankruptcy to preserve the golden parachutes of the executives. Very similar to Hostess that recently successfully played dead to get rid of union contracts and pensions. And, viola, less than a year later their "new and improved" products are back on the market and the zombie corporation can again pretend to be alive and claim it's "human" rights while avoiding responsibilities. I suggest we add a new category of executive to corporations, a Chief Conscience Officer. The CCO would be responsible to know what is going on within the organization and anyone within the company lying to him would take his place in prison or on the scaffold. Transparency is a half step but full responsibility is needed to have meaningful effect. I agree with Krisztian that a highly ignorant electorate limits the effectiveness of any form of Democracy. What can we do here in the States with the vicious circle of silliness that elects people like Inofe and Backmann to the senate and they advocate teaching revealed truth in the schools? The effectiveness of some excellent charter schools in reforming education is countered by the Bible based charters. Maybe TED, the Nerdfighters, the Khan Academy and MIT free online courses and other providers of voluntary self education will become popular enough to help us reach a positive tipping point. In the meantime I continue to work on setting up a model school to prove what can be done without support of a crippled and corrupt system.
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      Dec 29 2013: The SCOTUS in 20120 gave corporations personhood and the right to make political contributions.

      That is pretty much my argument that corporations and people can be corrupt be3cause SCOTUS says they have personhood.

      I have no legal training but I sure have been confused in the decisions handed down ... Obamacare is a tax has me scratching my head .... NSA actions are Constitutional .. hold it no a New York Judge says it is not. Over the last few years I am amazed that Constitutional Law falls along political lines and voting.

      As you suggest there is a real stench coming from above ... LLC, Savings and Loans, The Fed, Banking, and political leaders in all parties and positions, courts, the general lack of education of the public, and government interference at all levels.

      A popular movement is to run all of them out and start over ... but how long would it be before we are right back to where we are now.

      So SCOTUS says corporations have personhood ... will that change?

      Thanks for the reply .... Bob.
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        Dec 29 2013: Robert,
        You seem to want to blame the government for the general lack of education of the public? Do you think it might be reasonable for the public to take some responsibility for their/our own education regarding politics, corporations, or worldview?

        I agree with Chad, who seems to agree with Krisztián, Sean, Keith, and the comments I submitted earlier in the thread. Chad writes..."a highly ignorant electorate limits the effectiveness of any form of Democracy".....which I wholeheartedly agree with.

        Is the government responsible for educating all the public, or do you think/feel we could take the responsibility and action to educate ourselves, rather than blaming the government for not doing so?

        It doesn't look like Krisztián had to work too hard to "convince" people.....seems like some of us share the same perspective:>)
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          Dec 29 2013: As you suggest there is a real stench coming from above ... LLC, Savings and Loans, The Fed, Banking, and political leaders in all parties and positions, courts, the general lack of education of the public, and government interference at all levels.

          This is the quote from my reply .... I state government interference .... which I think is true. The words before that are "the general lack of education of the public."

          That does not either suggest or assign blame.

          Could you please tell me where I said ... it is the governments fault.

          I agree that we ... the public ... are uninformed and misguided ... and that it is our responsibility to be aware and informed.

          Thanks for the reply. Bob.
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        Dec 29 2013: I didn't suggest that Robert.....those are your words in your first paragraph, and it appears to be an exact quote from your previous comment.

        You write Robert, that there is "the general lack of education of the public, and government interference at all levels".

        I do not think that the government interferes with our ability to be informed, if that is what we want for ourselves. The only thing I suggest is for individuals who are all a part of the public, and therefor part of our government CAN be more interested in change and CAN be informed if they/we put in the effort. On that we seem to agree:>)
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          Dec 29 2013: I see those as two separate statements ... however if you wish to connect them that is fine but was certainly not my intent and not the way I read it.

          As always ... I wish you well my friend. Bob.
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    Dec 27 2013: Collen, I agree with you: Citizens, the population, once known corruption, may have part of the blame, especially by omission or inaction. Fortunately, today mass media may have a very important role in this matter, by publishing the dirty business they may know.
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      Dec 27 2013: I agree Sean....once we know about dysfunctional practices, as active members of our society, we become part of the dysfunction, and it would help if we accepted part of the responsibility. Our actions/inactions either create change, or allow the dysfunction to continue.

      I agree that mass media is helping to uncover dysfunction and corruption, which, in my perception is a good thing, because corruption has gone on forever. Now we KNOW about it and can take action to change some things in our society. If we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem.
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        Dec 30 2013: I totally agree, Colleen. The task is for all of us.citizens, the media, opposition politicians ... because we are all affected by the corruption, that should not be forgotten. Corruption is not something that "affects others", but something that affects everyone, all of us; it destroys trust in the state, disturbs the balance of the system in which society is based, misuses public money and also the power that the people give to their leaders by voting. Corruption is like a very dangerous disease for civil society. Fighting against corruption is a task for everybody, wherever it happens.
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      Dec 27 2013: Sean, For a moment let us look at the media. Do you think that the media is doing the job of investigative reporting and providing you with the information necessary to make a informed decision?

      Do you think that politicians are transparent in their actions?

      Do you think the voting public is politically aware and responsible?

      From the top down our politicians have lost credibility as indicated in the polls .... yet they continue to return to office. Clinton even though impeached remains a party favorite and nominated as father of the year. About half of the voters still back Obama even though he was voted the liar of the year. Why do the rich pay $50,000 a plate to hear a politician say lets take the money away from the rich?

      That the system is corrupt and the politicians are corrupt is not front page news .... Will Rogers and Mark Twain made a career of blasting politicians ... so what is the answer?

      If this case decides that only individuals are corrupt then life goes on and corruption will most likely increase and be more open due to SCOTUS decision. However even if the system is judged to also be corrupt for a short time the system will change until the lawyers find a new way to peddle and influence decision making ensuring financial gain for both sides.

      SCOTUS will vote along party lines yet again and nothing ill change. No one will be kicked out and few if any will be voted out. A real shame.

      Thanks for your reply. I wish you well. Bob.
  • Dec 24 2013: A system is made up of people, so by definition, a corrupt organization is simply an organized bunch of people, at least some of which are corrupt.
    A better way to look at it is that some systems are built in a way that encourages corruption among its individual component people, like the aforementioned lack of ability to fund election campaigns without a bribe/donation hybrid.

    Fixing the problem needs to be done on a systematic level however. You can't take care of the people, as what they're doing may be questionable, but in no way illegal, at least for now.
  • Dec 19 2013: Systems select individuals.
    Selected individuals corrupt the system that selected them.
    A vicious vicious loop.
    Target the players. Or, target the system.
    Right now we target the players.
    The players are ok with that method.
    Go figure
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    Dec 18 2013: System is made up with individuals. Thus, if all the people in a system are corrupted, the system will be corrupt no matter how good the law is. (Just like the system in Animal Farm by George Orwell)
  • Dec 18 2013: Any system can be corrupted. Can a system be designed so that it is corrupt? Let me reverse the question slightly, No system can survive with corrupt individuals running or being integral to it. I feel honest good people can make any system not corrupt. Hence, corruption starts with the individual.
    • Dec 30 2013: Exactly. Extremely honest people can make any system of government work, for example. Flip that around and dishonest people will make any form of government corrupt. It all starts with the individual, just as you said.
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      Jan 5 2014: Wayne and Rich,
      I agree....it starts with the individual. Perhaps an organization is more or less corrupt depending on how many individuals within the organization are more or less corrupt? If there are enough honest people within an organization I believe it can overshadow, and hopefully change corrupt behaviors by one or more individuals.
      • Jan 7 2014: Colleen,

        I agree sometimes the honest people can stop the corruption. Unfortunately if the corrupt person is in the right position, no one can stop them. I have seen it many times.
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      Jan 7 2014: That is true Wayne....we have seen it many times throughout history. I still think that it is very difficult for one person to be corrupt by him/herself. SOMEWHERE along the line, that person has support from others for the corruption.....SOMEONE either directly participates, or is aware, and with awareness, there is an opportunity for change.
      • Jan 8 2014: Agreed. The ones who acted in a corrupt manner was chasing the God of Money and/or power. Somehow they were taught to make these their goals ignoring anything else.
  • Jan 6 2014: The question is not whether taxes should go to 'big government' or to 'citizens', as surely government should serve all citizens and seek the best for all. Logic would dictate that taxes should go towards the less able and wealthy whilst there should be rewards for hard work, but at the moment there is a disproportionate bias towards those who already have wealth making more, and those without getting less over time.

    I'm not in favour of people getting something for nothing. Wages to sit at home on their back-sides. However, what incentive is there to work when one pays more of one's wages in taxes, as a proportion of one's wages overall as a minimum wage earner, than multinationals I could name. Some have been in the media spotlight within the last year for paying ridiculously low rates of tax. Many of us could only dream of being able to pay such low tax rates.

    I think the big question is whether our whole society and political system is here to serve people, or corporations!
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      Jan 7 2014: .... political system is here to serve people, or corporations!

      Big government is in survival mode ... it does not care about people never has .... politicians serve corporations because it is in their best interest. In 2010 SCOTUS gave corporations person hood status .. that means that corporations can make big donations above board now. Lets say that XYZ is looking for the China market ... the right donations and lobbies can make it possible to smooth the way on both sides ... the money donated here gives them the green light to make bribes there ... all while a honest player abiding by the rules is still years away from approval. Like Immigration ... those in que for the quota allotment are out of luck ... while illegals flood into the country. Obamas Aunt and Uncle were ordered out of the country three time by court orders ... yet just this year the miracle happened they were granted citizenship ... still on food stamps but as citizens. Some justice ....

      Why play by the rules when the government has shown us that rules mean little. Why work when the government will pay you more to stay at home. 3% of the taxes come for the lower 50% of the tax payers making it mathematically impossible to be taxed more than they make .. however statistics do show that they are returned more than they paid in ... plus the aide they received during the year. I lived in the poor parts of towns for years and this I can speak of with authority.

      Tax laws and foreign trade laws are made to secure the reelection of those in office. Campaign rhetoric is just that ... words. The Golden Goose lives and thrives for both parties.

      The party makes no difference ... the system is corrupt ... the people are corrupt ... and the fall of the USA is in the cards .... the debit is greater than the GDP ... and we cannot even pay the interest due ... and still ask for more and bigger government. That's just dumb (IMO).

      See ya, Bob
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    Jan 6 2014: May I add some-

    The Moral Development of the Child: An Integrated Model
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3860007/

    Lawrence Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development.

    Please notes, Kohlberg’s theory may require some modification when applied to cultures differences.
  • Jan 6 2014: The original question is very easy to answer, but it's obviously a lead in to a much deeper question.

    To answer the original question... No, and yes (in that order.)

    People come first, who then make systems. Corrupt people will pollute a fair system with corruption. Corrupt people will create unfair/corrupt systems. People usually appoint successors who hold similar values to their own and who will keep the status quo. Corrupt people are no different.

    I get tired of being told that I live in a democracy... I don't. Everyone in the US and Europe live in an oligarchy. We vote every four years or so, give or take, but not on any decisions that really matter other than to choose who will make the decisions for us. We don't make the decisions. We give that responsibility to a select few.

    In general, these politicians are high earning executives who have business contacts and interests who help fund them, especially in the US. Politicians who want to get re-elected cannot afford to upset financial backers in most instances. Lobbying groups usually represent business interests of one kind or another, or special interest groups. These groups are usually, though not always minority groups who often want politicians to make rulings that are not necessarily in the best interests of the wider population, I.e. The country as a whole. As terms of office are usually only around four years in duration, decision-making is usually focussed on short-term goals and outcomes.

    I think a change would be good. Ending big donations from lobbying groups would seem to be a good place to start.

    I hope my points are clear, but if anyone has any questions...
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      Jan 6 2014: Dave,
      Your points are very clear, and I agree with most of what you write...especially your answer to the original question...."No, and yes (in that order.)"......I agree:>)

      The question and answer seems to be a chicken/egg conundrum.....which came first? Corrupt people? Or corrupt systems? My belief, is that a corrupt system could not be corrupt without corrupt people to support it. So, in my perception, it begins with the choices people make.
      • Jan 6 2014: If it was not clear from my original post that corruption begins with the individual, then is made manifest in the human construct of an organisation, then individuals are often chosen to perpetuate the organisation's real aims ( not always the stated, public aims) then I do apologise. I did mean to make that clear. I shall have to try harder to make myself even more clear in future.

        But thanks for your comment and your 'vote of confidence'. It is appreciated.
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          Jan 7 2014: Dave,
          Your points are clear and I agree.....I wrote that in my comment:>) I was reinforcing your statements.....no/yes....chicken/egg.....corruption begins with individuals....people making choices......I am agreeing with you:>)
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      Jan 6 2014: Dave, I agree and was glad to see your burn through to the root issues. In the USA we are very politically naive and have long since become sheeple. Your point about appointing their replacement is well taken .. One of the most important things that can occur is stacking the SCOTUS and other federal courts with political appointees for life. I once thought that the law and the Constitution were straight forward and after reading the accompanying document that explained the logic and intent believed I understood. It is later in life that you learn that the laws and Constitution are what the Judges say they are. As a example I would never have thought that Obamacare is a tax. It is interesting to see the politicians separating themselves for the President as elections loom but still vote the party line. The majority still believes the administration to be transparent when all the evidence is to the opposite.

      The elected elite have written the rules in their favor and any attempt to disrupt the money flow will be met with resistance and to be sure a new scheme will be in place before the ink dries. They have become above the law by their own votes and wealthy by their own schemes.

      The greatest US pastime is political apathy. How to solve that might be through education but that is now in the control of the very people that education would harm. You might say the media ... controlled by the wealthy and politically connected.

      So where do we go where WE THE PEOPLE are again a part of the process.

      Many conservations could come from just this question ....

      Thanks for the reply. Be well. Bob.
      • Jan 6 2014: Robert, I think we have similar views, even though we may be thousands of miles apart(?) and living under slightly different variations of the democratic (oligarchic) political system.

        As for apathy... is it not realism? Why vote if the party/individual you vote for makes election promises, then breaks them and you have no say or recourse to make amends for four years, and then you're still left with a choice between bad and badder?! I'm not surprised that people aren't enthused to vote, either in the US, or many other countries worldwide.

        Personally, I'd like to see a more level society. Lowest wages higher, making housing for everyone (and much more besides) affordable for everyone. Healthcare and pensions for everyone, not huge bills if you get sick! You'd still have your Microsofts and your Bill Gates, but you wouldn't have them saying "the government should tax us more!" Societies with less discrepancy between lowest and highest earners are happier than those with a higher discrepancy in earnings. Shouldn't governments be making the majority of their citizens happier, not a smaller and smaller, powerful, effective lobbying, ultra-earning minority?

        How to effect change? Closing tax loopholes would be a start. If I sell products and/or services in the US but have a holding company elsewhere, so don't pay the same percentage of tax as a guy with a small store in down-town New York, how is that fair? Why do we let large organisations get away with paying less tax when we could support local citizens, running local businesses, paying local taxes, supporting their local communities, spending money in their local communities and supporting their neighbours and neighbours businesses, workers, etc?

        A community has to decide if it wants to hand over power to the one percent, or take back control and give it to the 99%. Then it has to decide what to do with that power, but there are some ideas around.

        I think I might be accused of socialism any time soon!
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          Jan 6 2014: I do not know if you are a socialist or not ... however some of the hopes are considered socialist leaning. We all want the best for everyone. The problem is how to achieve it.

          We learned for 1916 Argentina that to take it all for the rich and then the middle class and allow the government to grow bigger and bigger is a sure recipe for total failure and collapse. That is the type of socialism that supports the Keynesian Economic model and took Argentina from the top to the bottom in one year.

          Marx says that the value is in the worker and the overseers are not necessary ... such as managers and owners. This has been attempted and is also a formula for failure.

          In the USA we have inspired generational welfare mentality ... even though you are capable why work. We are in a nanny state. The top 1% pay 40% and the top 5% pay over half of all tax income. The top 25% pay 85% of all tax income while the bottom 50% pay 3%. So more than half of the people live off of the efforts of others and bitch about it.

          So what if .... we reduced the federal government to Constitutional levels ... enforced Immigration Laws ... made elected officials civil servants .... applied term limits .... give a hand up to those in need and stopped giving hand outs .... returned the power back to the states ..... limit federal judges to retire at age 65 - 70 ... and so forth ....

          With the exception of a few ... the 1% are not openly involved in politics and have little political power. The exception being Soros who wants one world government and heavily backs and visits Obama and Hillary Clinton to direct them to his goals. The power rests in the new elite ... politicians. Big companies get big breaks because they backed the winning horse ... the mom and pop stores do not have that clout.

          The question is not to take it from the 1% ... it is how the taxes collected should be distributed ... to big government or to the citizens.

          Thanx ... Bob
  • Jan 5 2014: Hi .I am medical physicist and I want to have been some
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      Jan 5 2014: Reza, Your reply did not come through ... please resubmit.

      Bob.
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    Jan 5 2014: I think that most people who get corrupted are corrupted by a system that is put in place.

    As I've been an elected politician, I've both seen and experienced this first hand. In this kind of political system that we have for instance (bipartisan), we are always forced to make trade-offs between making a difference and actually doing and voting on what is right.

    I have kept quiet about certain issues that I considered smaller then others because it would be too much frowned up by those above me if I spoke my mind. And because I did this I was able to have a somewhat greater impact on other issues. I chose my battles as they say. And this is something that every politician is forced to do in our current political model, everyone knows this to some extent.

    In my opinion it's almost always the system that corrupts the individual. The best known examples are probably, as stated the political model.

    The capitalistic model, as it teaches us that money is your worth. If you earn much you have contributed much to the world, when in fact it's almost always the opposite. It makes people cherish money above almost everything else.

    And the religious model, a system that teaches people what IS right and wrong instead of teaching them to THINK about right and wrong.
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      Jan 5 2014: Jimmy,
      I don't see a "trade off" between making a difference and doing what is right. I perceive them as one and the same when we are dealing with a corrupt situation....doing what is right is the same as making a difference.

      Some of the things I've done to clean up our local government were definitely "frowned upon", by those who just wanted me to go away! But I stayed the course, no matter how much I, or what I did was frowned upon. I also "choose my battles", and if that is frowned upon.....so be it.

      A system can only corrupt individuals, if there are enough individuals in the system who can convince enough others within the system that corruption is ok.

      When I challenged the toxic business that was owned by the chair of the permitting board for example, almost EVERYONE was AGAINST ME. It took a long time and a lot of energy on my part to get people to honestly consider the facts, and my life was threatened during that process.

      I was persistent (frightened a lot of the time too), and eventually, more people DID look at the facts, but in the beginning, most people in the organization (local, regional, and even state governing bodies) simply believed that the owners were in business for a long time, and so everything MUST be ok.

      In my perception Jimmy, systems cannot corrupt people, unless people have some reason to NOT do what is right.....like the money interest, as you insightfully mention:>)
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        Jan 5 2014: What I mean with trade-offs is that if you fight the smaller injustices you might not get to a higher political position, one where you can fight the bigger injustices. So most people will sacrifice (or keep quiet about) a piece of themselves along the way to get higher up, to do more good.

        And this is something that actually corrupts your values along the way as you begin to justify your behavior with the "greater good" thought. And soon many tend to think "if I could only get to the top, then I could do some REAL change", but to get there you often have to play along to get pushed up into that position and that's something that won't happen if everyone frowns upon you.

        We see these examples all the time, the grassroots movement is always advocating the best changes, but when people become politicians and the higher they move up that ladder the more corrupt they become in our eyes.

        It's not their fault, it's because they want to do change at the big scale.

        Have you seen the series "House of cards"? There are some examples there of people doing these trade-offs that mean really well but get caught in the web of politics.
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          Jan 5 2014: Ok Jimmy, I understand what you are suggesting....some may think.....I'll do what I need to do, even if it's not right, to get to a better place where I can do more.

          That is a useless catch 22 in my perception! A person would do "little" corrupt things in order to get to a higher position where s/he can do some good? Doesn't make any sense to me because with the journey, a person is building support for one thing or another...corruption, or doing good. The people that a person may bring along with them on that journey would (hopefully) see the contradiction!

          You say..."it's not their fault". The decisions we make in every moment influence our lives, and if a person accepts corruption on any level, it indicates to me what that person may do in another position.
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        Jan 5 2014: Also Colleen, have you heard of the Stanford Prison Experiment? It's a perfect example of how good people can become corrupted by a system very quickly.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment
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          Jan 5 2014: Jimmy,
          Are you saying it's ok...normal.....common...understandable...acceptable...etc.?
          You seem to be defending corruption?

          I am not saying that good people cannot become corrupted by a system. I'm saying we have choices, even when a system seems to be corrupt because of the number of individuals within the system who choose to be corrupt.

          EDIT
          Jimmy,
          The more we say it is the systems that are corrupt, and good people become corrupt with the systems, we normalize corruption. Systems are made up of people who make choices.
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        Jan 6 2014: Colleen,

        I am NOT condoning corruption, you misunderstand me gravely! I am however saying that it is somewhat normal and common.

        There's even a standard measurement for corruption called "Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI)" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption_Perceptions_Index

        I think that we should recognize that corruption is normalized to some extent, and most of the time we should blame the system and not the people in that system.

        But I guess it all matters on what you count as corruption. I think that your and my definition of the word differ greatly.

        I sure hope that it's "understandable" if we can't understand it then we can't fight it. And there's a lot of research done of how people are easily corrupted by any system they are put in if that system corrupts.

        You see, it's not that people do "little corruption" to do greater good, it's that they remain indifferent to things that they should fight but either don't have the energy to or are convinced by group mentality that they are wrong, this happens everywhere above all in politics.

        When I say that it's not their fault to me it's the same as saying that it's not the schoolyard bullies fault that they are bullies, it's due to the conditions that they are in that makes them that way. The system of parenthood that they are mostly put in, the same rules continue to apply throughout our lives. We are formed by the choices that we think we are forced to make.

        But your country is much more corrupt than mine, if you haven't noticed any corruption then I must say that you either haven't been paying much attention or haven't been looking for it. The US is raked 19th and Sweden is ranked 3rd in CPI.

        So, yeah, we should realize that corruption IS normalized and DO something about it, but first we need to recognize that it's always happening and that that is mostly due to structures that people are put in. Like the case with your lobbying.

        Again, I am NOT condoning it! But we see the reasons differently.
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          Jan 6 2014: Jimmy,
          I do not agree that I misunderstand you "gravely". You ARE saying that corruption is "normal and common", I recognize that we DO normalize it, and that is exactly what I am understanding from your previous comments, which is why I added the statement to my previous comment...

          "The more we say it is the systems that are corrupt, and good people become corrupt with the systems, we normalize corruption. Systems are made up of people who make choices".

          The piece that we do not seem to agree on, is that you think/feel that we "should blame the system and not the people in that system."

          And I say the systems are made up of people, and as long as there are corrupt people in the system, the system will be corrupt. I agree...."we are formed by the choices that we think we are forced to make". People need to learn that they are not "forced" to be corrupt....they/we make choices.

          I have noticed corruption Jimmy, I have faced corruption as a whistleblower, and my life was threatened. I'm not sure why you had to write...."if you haven't noticed"....that statement feels rather condescending.....like I am not as informed as you are....no need for that Jimmy.

          I am not sure what you mean with your statement..."...mostly due to structures that people are put in....Like the case with your lobbying".

          With the situation regarding the toxic business, I intentionally challenged it, became part of the system in an effort to change it, and that was the end result.....change for the better. That is why I know that if enough people within a system want to change it, it is possible. The system was fine, the PEOPLE using the system for their own gain were corrupt.
  • Dec 30 2013: I think we need to be consistent. Citizens United is a mistake because:

    Greed- Individuals can be greedy, corporate greed comes from the collective greed of individuals. Progressive taxation on INDIVIDUALS was an effective brake pedal on greed. Raising corporate tax rates won't fix greed.

    Corruption- Close cousin to greed. A system with poor accountability enables and strengthens corruption. But again such a system cannot succeed if all individuals within it are honest and of high integrity.

    C = M + D - A (Klitgaard 1998).

    M - Monopoly. High power for vendors and suppliers who are providing a service.
    D - Discretion. High power, especially to INDIVIDUALS, to bypass rules for purchasing a service. Those with the discretion could be public employees, or private employees providing a service (like an architect or engineer for a construction project).
    A - Accountability. This is what holds corruption in check. Watchdogs and whistleblowers. Proactive risk assessment and avoidance methods are FAR preferred over reactive methods such as auditing after the damage is done.

    I have a group on Facebook "Corruption in Construction" that I would welcome anyone to visit.

    So a system can effect the C = M + D - A equation, but ultimately it is the honor and integrity of the individuals within the system that will determine the level of corruption. I've seen many, many cases of corruption as a result of ignorance of the many, being exploited by the craftiness of just a select few. So in that respect, a poor system gives excessive leverage to bad people such that only a few rotten apples can cause a lot of damage. We have many such poor systems in the USA.
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    Dec 26 2013: can't answer in place, but maybe worth a new thread, since it directly relates to the topic at hand.

    @Nadav Tropp: "The problem is, what do you replace democracy with? Dictatorships and monarchies always end up as self serving [...] direct democracy, would be a fickle, populist mess."

    there is a common element in both three concepts: some people making decisions on public issues, that is, making decisions for others. this is a system that is a hotbed for corruption, but also a hotbed for making terrible decisions. one can argue whether the system can have traits at all, but certainly it is a system that makes it extremely hard for people to do the right thing, while it makes extremely easy to do the wrong thing. it is like a steering wheel that commands the car to go widely in all directions unless you carefully and swiftly counteract. you can drive such a car, but if you don't focus for one second, you are toast.

    the solution is: not having public issues. not making "common" decisions. if we have a public education system, obviously someone has to decide what they teach there. but if we don't have such a system, the problem stops being public. now everyone can decide for himself. if we have national defense, someone has to decide how much to spend on it. but if we have independent defense agencies, and every state, city, quarter or neighborhood hires any such agencies freely, forming alliances freely, but withdrawing from them freely at any time, this public element is no more.

    free society is a system that does not promote corruption and horrible decisions, but rather, promotes responsibility and balanced decision making.
    • Dec 27 2013: Such free systems have existed throughout history, usually in the form of city states. There's a reason that model pretty much passed from the world however--a large central empire can easily outclass them both militarily, and economically. Even if the individual smaller elements have more power overall (and they usually do, corruption being easier to root out and no neglect of the "provincials" in favor of the core regions), banding together for a common goal is never easy.
      The world is run by large nations, and lately, large corporations, ever since they were founded because while efficiency is hurt in practically all fields, the effective ceiling one can reach is increased.

      We're actually moving further, and further away from the decentralized model, not the other way around. Modern communication and transport are gradually pushing towards a loss of local identity in favor of a "grander" one. Nations replace tribes, smaller religions are being brushed aside by the larger missionary ones, and countries are larger and less numerous then ever before.
      Looking at areas that had better travel and communication longer, one notices populations turning more homogenous. Europe is a lot less tribal then Africa or India, for example, and they have much less internal bickering to show for it.

      It also helps that a strong central government prevents internal fighting, by far its most important function. With a myriad smaller groups, slitting each other's throats is much more of an issue.

      So to sum things up, the decentralized model doesn't seem like a realistic replacement to the current system of doing things, despite some very obvious advantages.
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        Dec 27 2013: argument 1: big countries trump a free society using military
        reply: the soviet union failed to crush afghanistan, the USA failed to crush viatnam. now imagine the situation reversed: USA on its technological level using guerrilla warfare against an invading afghan army.

        argument 2: centralization happens
        reply: if it happens naturally, like 2-3 megacorporations emerging on the free market in a given sector, it does not hurt freedom. if it happens by force, it should stop. we should stop it. that is what i'm up against.

        argument 3: government prevents internal fighting
        reply: 1, in a free society, there is no reason for fighting at all. 2, governments actually promote and create a lot of internal fighting.
        • Dec 27 2013: 1) Every rule has its exceptions. Its also not only force; sometimes the implied threat of it, or just plain economic influence can control the flow of events much more smoothly.
          Besides, both Afghanistan and Vietnam only held out because of a combination of very rough terrain, and the backing of the superpower that didn't attack them. If you look at Russia's recent war in Georgia (a few years back, during the Olympics if I remember correctly), or the US' recent involvement in Afghanistan, the affair is a fair bit more one sided.

          2) What defines a natural process of human society? If lack of the use of force is your criteria, then we can still have a perfectly natural process that hurts the freedom of the general public. Monopolies, for example, can rely on no force at all.

          3) Lets take a look at the alternative, contemporary regions around the world without a strong central government (defining strong as having a monopoly on violence). Syria, Lebanon, Somalia, post Gaddafi Lybia, Central Africa, Congo (both of them)...
          Not a pretty picture. Where you don't have a government making the rules, some warlord steps in to fill the power vacuum. A free society is a utopian idea, in the sense that its completely unreachable, aside from perhaps in a very small scale for a limited time frame.
          Humans just don't work that way. Some evolutionary remnant of stone age era tribal warfare if you ask me.
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    Dec 24 2013: this argument stinks, and i'm risking being boring explaining why over and over again with little to no variation. but i won't stop until i convince at least two people.

    so the claim would be: we must disallow corporations to buy out politicians. question: would you trust a politician with anything knowing he would happily change his position for money? if a person is so morally bankrupt that he will wholeheartedly support a position after receiving a nice sum, do you want that person anywhere near the congress or senate? isn't refusing bribes a most basic requirement for a congressman? so the very fact that corporations swarm in on a politician, isn't it a sign not to vote for that person?

    or the claim is that parties having the most money win the elections. question: because every voter is an idiot? i mean, you would vote for something you hear the most on cable? you look at political ads, and say, hm, i pretty much hate high war spending, i would like to lower it, but look, the tv spot of that war monger hawk is so much better, i must vote for him. is that how it works? or how? so either money does not count that much, or majority of the population are completely stupid, and practically remote controlled by television. in the former case, we don't have a problem, in the latter, bribery is the least of our problems, we have a populace that can't tell right from wrong, yet they are trusted with the decision.
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      Dec 24 2013: How will you know that you have convinced at least two people?
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        Dec 24 2013: i didn't plan that far ahead
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          Dec 24 2013: For what ever your beliefs I wish you well at this time of the year and a great next near.

          I do not always agree with you but respect your replies.

          Be well. Bob.
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      Dec 25 2013: Krisztián, my vote goes for "voter is an idiot", my proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the election of George W Crazy not once but twice.
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        Dec 25 2013: yep, the evidence is plenty. however, i claim that people are not hopeless if they make decisions about their own stuff and if they face immediate consequences to their decisions. they are totally inept choosing political leaders.
        • Dec 25 2013: Representative democracy is a pretty bad institution, I agree. Getting elected requires charisma, connections, being born the correct demographic, and doing populist things. Making for a good leader requires intelligence, wisdom, and being willing to listen to advice--two completely unrelated skill sets.

          The problem is, what do you replace democracy with?
          Dictatorships and monarchies always end up as self serving, if not immediately, then in a generation or two. The opposite extreme, direct democracy, would be a fickle, populist mess.

          Representative democracy is a pretty bad system, but its still the best we've got. Slowly converting in into an oligarchy by bribing the representatives is something of an issue that needs resolving.
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      Dec 25 2013: Why not have lie detector tests? They do it for many types of jobs including some legal proceedings. It seems to me very appropriate for congressman, senators, even the prez.

      The fact is that Nobody is above committing transgressions, especially when there is so little accountability (think Charles Rangel, Barney franks, Chris Dodd) and cheating is so seductive.
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      Dec 29 2013: K.P. you can count me as one convert. I have been cogitating for years to try and understand what drives my fellow Americans left and right. I am a little hopeful in that reportedly a plurality of us now self identify as independents. Still the remaining level of willful ignorance is dismaying. It seems to be based in large part on a unshakeable conviction that there are not enough resources to cover the needs of everyone and that a large percentage of the unemployed "refuse" to work and are thus stealing from those who do. This "article of faith" that welfare and foreign aid are the main drivers of our deficit is very deeply believed. Even though the 1st is only 12% of the budget and the 2nd is less than 1% in reality, these facts do not trump faith for believers. Nearly nonexistent reasoning and logic skills combined with an incredibly short memory make it virtually impossible to reeducate the resistant. I have experimented with pointing out that many of the largest corporations like oil and energy still get tax subsidies and some pay no taxes and that the overall corporate contribution has declined from 30%+ to less than 9% while profitability has vastly increased in the last 4 decades. Also CEO compensation has gone from an average of 30x the worker's to nearly 300x in the same decades. Thus 'suck up' and not "trickle down" seems the more accurate descriptor.