**The Following is an Opinion Piece; assumptions are made by the writer, keep Law 2 in mind when reading**
Corruption runs deep in humans. It’s why Communism works on paper, but not in practice; why true Monarchies end with violent revolutions; why Capitalism ends in corrupt major powers lobbying against common sense. Where does it come from, though? Why is it so prevalent in our species? Can we destroy it? If not, can we at least circumvent it? Corruption has not only planted its seeds, it has been growing with us as long as human history. Humans have been helpless to it since the dawn of social hierarchies. Why try and fight something that’s been around since before Christ, or for that matter, any form of religion at all. It permeates us so completely, that it seems we’re helpless to it. So the real question becomes, not how can we rid ourselves from it, but how can we make it harder for it to occur?
Defining Greed and Corruption
Before moving any farther, first we must define corruption, and it’s parent, greed. They are similar, as any family is, but there are major differences between the two.
corruption |kəˈrəpSHən| noun
1 dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.
2 the process by which something, typically a word or expression, is changed from its original use or meaning to one that is regarded as erroneous or debased.
greed |grēd| noun
intense and selfish desire for something, esp. wealth, power, or food.
It is important to know these definitions, so that we can understand the relationship that these to words share. I would like to say, that even though my dictionary defines corruption as dishonest or fraudulent, corruption has more, if you will, acceptable forms as well. In Capitalism, (which, let’s be honest, is the driving force of the world currently) legal corruption is seen day to day in the form of lobbyism and others. Most people tend to agree, corruption is a bad thing. It often leads to a large margin between the lower and upper classes, famine, revolutions, etc. So it is better to find a solution to combat against the spread of corruption. To find the solution to any problem, we must first find where it arises.
The Evolutionary Necessity of Greed
Corruption spawns from greed, so we must first classify the causes of greed. The rise of greed is hard to pinpoint, and is different depending on your classification of greed. Are animals greedy when they fight over food? Anyone who has more than one dog knows that they fight over food even when they have eaten their fair share, and should be full. Is that greed? It’s easy to fall into a philosophical rabbit hole pondering over the emergence of greed so, for argument’s sake, I am going to state an opinion which will be assumed to be fact for the duration of this article and the next. Remember the first and second rule of informed citizenry during this article, and none of my opinions will create fallacies.
My opinion is that at least mammals exhibit greed. I say mammals, because mammals are the dominant animals most of us come into contact with. I’ve never sat down and played with snakes or frogs on a regular basis, so I’d rather not make any assumptions of their behavior. If you’ve ever seen a hamster or squirrel eat, it would be safe to say they are a bit greedy. Plowing entire peanuts into their cheeks, they take away the entire meal from other animals, before even eating. The food is kept in their cheeks and is eaten when it is safe. Keeping with the squirrels example, they hoard rampantly, creating large stockpiles of food for the winter. You may say that its just survival instinct, not greed, and you’d be half right.
Greed is a survival instinct. Greed is wanting more than you need, and why do you want more than you need? In case there ever comes a time when there is less of what you need available. Animals need one thing to survive; sustenance (through food and water). Some animals (including humans) have a penchant for shiny objects, hence human’s love for gold, or feline’s love for tinsel. Why do animals fight and hoard over these things?
Sustenance is easy, animals need food and water to survive, and if you have more of it tucked away, you are more prepared for an overall lack of food in your immediate area. So while other animals starve and perish, you and your group survive because you took more resources than you needed. That inherent want for more than you need is evolution. Animals that tended to take more food than they needed had better chances of surviving and mating, than those that didn’t.
A harder one to pin down is why some animals feel the need to fixate and hoard shiny objects. Unable to find any real reasons for this behavior, I have developed a hypothesis of my own. Some animals covet shiny objects because shininess is usually seen in clean things. Shininess is a good indicator of clean, potable water, therefore, safe to drink. Animals that drank dark murky water died from diseases that infested the water, thereby telling the other animals in the area that that water was dangerous. Those animals taught their young to look for less murky water, and thus we have a natural preference for shiny water. Evolution of not just organisms, but ideas, is essential to the survival of life.
Another hypothesis to the shininess conundrum is shininess is inherent to health. What am I talking about? A healthy set of eyes tends to be more reflective than a diseased set. When animals mate, murky-eyed disease riddled parents often give way to sickly offspring. They die out, while the animals who are more attracted to the reflective eyes create more viable offspring. So leads to an inherent attraction to shiny objects. Remember that this is all pure speculation, but I think that it is a satisfactory explanation as to why some animals are attracted to shiny objects.
Now that we know why animals love food and shiny objects, it’s easy to see where greed arises. Greed is a natural instinct, driving animals to reach for more than they need. They take more food, because food is a direct link towards survival, and some animals store shiny objects because it is a symbol for cleanliness and health, which evoke evolutionary cues to covet shininess. You want to take more than you need because it increases your chances of survival, and your likely hood of mating.
Greed = A natural instinct to acquire more than one needs of a certain item, for the purposes of being prepared for times of hardship.
Many philosophers have classified greed as a human trait, not one shared by animals, but if we separate ourselves from animals, we convolute the path to understanding ourselves. Humans are simply animals that ask, “why?”, and in terms of our nature, it can all be traced back to survival instincts.
What is Good and Evil? Why is Greed deemed a sin?
Just like greed and corruption, we need to define good and evil to understand its connotations for us as human beings. My dictionary has many multiple definitions for good and evil, but we only need one or two to understand the birth of the terms.
good |go͝od| adjective
1 to be desired or approved of
1 benefit or advantage to someone or something
evil |ˈēvəl| noun
1 profound immorality, wickedness, and depravity, esp. when regarded as a supernatural force
With that in mind, we can now hope to classify what good and evil actually are. Actions that are deemed ‘good’ are things that are benefit someone/something, and are approved of; actions that are deemed evil are things that are seen to be immoral, wicked, and depravity and are disapproved of. The question is, who is approving/disapproving of these actions? Are good and evil static things, or are they dynamic?
Who approves of good actions, and who disapproves of evil actions? For that matter, is a good action in one area an evil action in another? It all comes down to social groups and culture. What is a good action in one group, may be evil in another, because it comes down to one question. “Does this help or hurt my group?” If it helps your group, it is deemed as good, if it hurts, evil. What helps your group may put another group at a disadvantage, which leads that second group to classify your group as evil. They try to eradicate you from the area, and the conflict leads to your group thinking the other group is evil as well. It is in those dynamic terms that we can place figures such as Osama Bin Laden, considered evil by America(group A), but hailed as a hero in many areas of the middle east (group B). He is good and evil depending on the group.
Time and time again, humans have shown that we are not static creatures, we are dynamic. It may not appear so at times, but that’s because humans have a hard time imagining things over a broad period of time. As the length of time increases, the predictive capabilities of humans lessen in accuracy. In terms of the imagining the ever changing social climate around us, it is hard to picture, because just like how the earth seems flat when you are a small being in the vast area that the earth occupies, social climate dynamism over time is vast, and our lives and ideals make up a small fraction of the entire ocean of human lives and ideals.
Good and evil are simply viewpoints. This youtube video offers this interpretation very elegantly, looking at the human race from an alien’s point of view. Take the time to check it out.
Now why is greed seen as a sin? Ask most people in what category they would place greed, and you’ll find most people classify greediness as evil. Why is that? Because greed tends to only benefit a small group of people. Not only that, but as greed goes on, it benefits a progressively smaller group. What do I mean? Let me elaborate.
If you are a goat herder, and you cannot supply your settlement’s demand for goat’s milk, what can you do to meet those demands? You could buy more goats from a nearby city, or you could steal goats from another settlement nearby. Goat herders are normally viewed as impoverished people, so let’s say you lack any gold to purchase more goats from the city, so that leaves one option. You sneak into the nearby settlement in the midst of night, and steal the goats. The goat herder wakes up, and sees his goats have been stolen, thereby ruining his way of life. He classifies whoever did it as evil.
You have more goats now, and you can finally meet the demands of your settlement. They classify this influx of goat’s milk as good fortune. Now that you have control of the supply, and can easily meet demands, you can raise the price of goat’s milk. Let’s say every cup of goat’s milk used to be 1 gold coin, now that everyone has goat’s milk, and has become accustomed to goat’s milk in their diet, you can make prices 2 gold coins per cup. People grumble, but they don’t put up a serious fuss, it’s only another gold coin.
Now, you don’t need the extra coin, but you are instinctively compelled to reach for more. You raised it because most people would still be able to afford it, but not all. The poorest of your settlement can no longer afford the goat’s milk, so your small bit of greed negatively affects their lives, thus because you are greedy, you are now benefitting a smaller group of people.
Let’s say you raise the price every few months, small bits at a time so people don’t fuss too much. Now instead of 2 gold coins per cup, its 10. Only the elite of your settlement can afford your prices regularly, and anyone who wants your milk has to save up for many months. The gold of your settlement is all flowing towards you, so not only is there a huge demand for your goat’s milk, you are taking more and more money out of the economy. You have greatly benefitted your family, but you have had a hugely negative effect on the common people in your settlement.
As time goes on, the original act of greed positively affects a smaller and smaller group of people. Greed is seen as evil characteristic, because it only benefits a tiny group. Now where does that leave you as the goat herder? At this point your greed has depleted your settlement’s economy, destroyed the cuisine, and, eventually, turn the settlement against you. The effects would be even worse if you added addictive chemicals, like cigarette companies.
So that is the definition of good and evil, and the effects of greed. Is this corruption, though? How do we go about defining corruption? Where does greed transform into corruption?
The Birth of Corruption from the Womb of Greed
Corruption is driven by greed, but where does it begin? It is normally associated with leaders of groups, because they are the ones who will affect the most with their greed and corruption. The question is, when does corruption birth forth from greed? When you forcibly influence others with your greed, corruption is born. The goat herder metaphor is a sufficient explanation to the transition.
You realize what you have done to your economy, and the unsustainable path you were on, so you lower prices from 10 gold pieces to 7 pieces. You also make small purchases with your gold to stimulate the economy. Now the settlement is beginning to recover, and people slowly flock from other settlements. The population is rising, and soon people realize the need for some sort of governing entity to steer the growth and ensure the continued success for the town. One man rises to the call and becomes leader.
The influx of people also brings more gold coins to your town, so you raise the prices again. Now, you are able to raise it 12 gold pieces a cup. The town’s people become frustrated with the ridiculous price of goat’s milk, and begin to call for the leader to do something. Your continued success is in jeopardy, so you arrange a secret meeting with the leader to discuss the price. You offer to lower the price by one coin to placate the common people. He refuses and demands you lower the price by 7 coins. You offer him one coin for every purchase, and free goat’s milk in exchange for leaving the price at its current state, and protection from the townspeople. He thinks it over for a moment, then accepts.
Corruption is born at that moment. As the goat herder, you influenced him with the products of your greed, and he allowed his greed to overtake his duty. Instead of acting in the group’s interests, he allowed you to influence him against the wishes of the town’s people. That is all corruption is, using greed to create influence, thus creating an exchange between two very small groups that work against the needs and wishes of the group at large. We, as humans, deem it evil, because good things benefit the entire group, not just one small branch of the group. That is why people who invent life saving devices are good, but if they patent it, mark up it 1000 times what it costs to make, they are seen as evil.
Awaiting for Part 2
I’m not the type of person to whine about what is wrong without offering solutions, but I unfortunately do not have the time to give solutions today. Knowing the definition of greed, corruption, good, and evil we can simply dive right into the the meat of the problem next time. I will offer examples of corruption in America’s government, attempt to define our type of government, and offer solutions to circumvent corruption in our government.