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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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    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.

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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.

          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.

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