[FoRK] Corruption, was: Re: From Meccania to Atlantis

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Thu Jan 7 01:29:46 PST 2010

Time, Jan. 11, 2010, pgs. 14-15:

"$35 Billion: Amount of money embezzled or misused by Chinese officials 
from January to November 2009, according to a government audit."

"461: Number of murders in New York City in 2009 as of Dec. 27 -- the 
fewest since the city began keeping records in 1962."

"150: Estimated number of U.S. Ponzi schemes that collapsed in 2009, up 
from 40 in 2008."


Stephen Williams wrote:
> Ken Ganshirt @ Yahoo wrote:
>> --- On Wed, 12/23/09, Stephen Williams <sdw at lig.net> wrote:
>>> Just my opinion, based on many factors.  All easily
>>> disagreed with.  Place your bets. 
>> Thanks for the list. Food for thought.
>>> Corruption is a way of government, and business to a large
>>> extent.  Not a good base for anything.
>> Just so. But are they *more* corrupt than any other jurisdiction? 
>> Compared to, say, the United States, for example?   
> Overall, the US is hardly corrupt at all.  You have to have a pretty 
> distorted lens to believe that it is.  In fact, I have never 
> personally observed any instance of corruption by anyone in business 
> or government in the US, and I've seen a lot of both.  If I had, I 
> would have reported it instantly.  Sure, it happens.  In New Jersey 
> especially it seems.  But it is very rare in terms of people involved 
> and detectable impact.  Sure, billions are spent with questionable 
> justification, not enough competition, etc.  Still not above noise for 
> most people.
> The recent debacles have mostly been about lax regulation / criminals 
> of various kinds / insane risk blindness, not corruption in general.  
> The closest I can see to widespread corruption was that the Wall 
> Street traders of certain kinds had collectively decided that certain 
> things were valid, reasonable, and proper when clearly they were not.  
> I can completely understand that each individual thought that since 
> "everyone was doing it" and no one had stepped in to say it was wrong, 
> that it must be OK.  A big, fat, stupid mistake, but not clearly 
> widespread corruption.
> The actual losses are due to loss of trust causing people to sell, bid 
> less, etc.  Corruption can't really exist because it would cause a 
> similar loss of trust.  Sure, we have criminals, and if they are in 
> the wrong place without enough openness, they can pull off a lot 
> (Enron, Madoff), but still that is not government corruption.
> Real corruption doesn't stand long usually and it's big news: NJ, the 
> Chicago senate seat up for sale, Delay et al, etc.
>> >From the outside, there are some of us who view the US as at least 
>> as corrupt as many of the countries Americans typically hold up as 
>> egregiously corrupt. You'all just do it with more style.
> What's your proof?
> Someone I know who traveled from Russia recently recounted how the 
> person next to them in the customs processing step was being held up 
> because their reason for travel was to accept an award.  Mexico police 
> are regularly found to be working for drug cartels.  Canadians...  Ha, 
> just kidding.  Because of the one party system, more or less feudal 
> control over villages by authorities in many cases, and various other 
> bad characteristics, corruption is a daily issue for probably millions 
> in China.  While we may have suspicions fairly frequently, any solid 
> proof would be instantly acted upon.  China's one part frequently 
> seems to ignore corruption for as long as possible.
>> The bureaucracy charges license fees. They are frequently used as 
>> extortion.
> In the US?  It may feel that way, and it may in effect be that way, 
> however it is not explicitly that way.  Examples?
> I've only had to pay an usual tax once, when I shipped rather than 
> carried a backpack from Canada to the US.  Otherwise, I have paid only 
> typical personal and corporate income tax and sales tax.  Oh, I now 
> pay $30 /yr. for a business license.
>> The politicians, on behalf of your big buinesses and constituencies 
>> with vested interests, negotiate free trade agreements that aren't.
> There are mistakes, and there are deliberate attempts to favor certain 
> constituencies, however actual corruption A) doesn't happen in illegal 
> ways too often, and B) doesn't survive too long, usually not more than 
> an elected term or two.  I can't comment much on free trade 
> agreements.  It's a good idea in general, messy in specifics I 
> suppose.  I wonder why we don't have any Mexican or Canadian truckers 
> here.
>> The politicians are owned by their largest contributors. When a 
>> senator needs millions to get elected, does anyone really believe the 
>> big contributors are doing it for altruistic reasons?
> There is a lot of influence flow of various kinds, however businesses 
> are legally barred from supporting politicians directly for a reason.  
> They have to encourage their owners / employees, but cannot coerce.  
> Money is a major influence, and so are votes.  It's a bit like 
> representatives vs. senators, little people vs. the fat cats or the 
> many vs. regional distribution.
> Politicians are allowed to be influenced.  That may even be good in 
> most cases.  It is only illegal generally when it is explicitly quid 
> pro quo, i.e. "Pay me $40K and I'll vote your way."  Keep in mind 
> that, generally, the contributed money doesn't go into the pocket of 
> the politician anyway, it goes to a reelection / travel / ad fund.  
> The government pays the politician and their staff salary.  Sure they 
> get some benefit in meals, nice trips, etc., but it can't go directly 
> to a mansion or whatever.
> Politicians still have to get elected.  If they ignore the bulk of 
> their constituents to vote the corporation's way, they'll get voted 
> out.  The next politician will reverse the damage.  If they buy an 
> argument and try to convince their constituents and then vote the way 
> that both now want, there's nothing wrong with it.  If we, the people, 
> allow them to pull a fast one and convince us to go along with 
> something against our interests, then shame on us.  And there has been 
> a lot of shame to be had in the last 10 years.  Too bad we can't react 
> faster, have even more openness to figure out the truth sooner, etc., 
> however there are conflicting needs to balance.  Sometimes it sucks, 
> but those are the breaks.  It never seems to be the case that the 
> problem goes on forever.  We always have another party or others who 
> can get pretty vocal, drum up support, protest, etc.  Piles of money 
> are not necessarily competitive with a good idea and great 
> representative and strategy.
>> Where do you think China's businesses learned how to screw people? 
>> They have learned well from businesses in the West. Why do you think 
>> we have so much consumer protection legistation? Hint: because we 
>> need it. We should hardly condemn them for using normal Western 
>> business practices when doing business with the West.
> Consumer protection legislation, like much legislation, creates 
> appropriate feedback and back pressure between and action and 
> consequences.  It is about the elimination of situation where one 
> person acts and another pays.  I don't think that their existence is 
> evidence of the necessary badness of people, just in creating a proper 
> functioning set of rules for a business market model.
> I wasn't talking about corruption in China's businesses at all.  That 
> is mostly self-limiting: If a factory screws me, I'll never order from 
> them.  I'll post a message and they'll never get another order.  They 
> know that.  There are criminals we have to beware of, such as the dog 
> food and formula ingredient cheating, and probably-ignorant people 
> cutting corners (lead-based paint, etc.), but little corruption that I 
> know about.
> I was talking about locals dealing with corruption to do business, 
> live, exercise freedom, etc.
> What percentage of US businesses do you think are corrupt, and in what 
> ways?
>> Sorry to pick on just one of many factors but I'm curious why you 
>> think this one applies particularly to China when I don't see it 
>> being any more (or less) corrupt than its peers (India, USA, Russia, 
>> UK, any global business). Just another opinion, of course.   
> India is famous for red tape, and corruption I suppose.  It must be at 
> least a little better now.  I doubt there is any serious corruption in 
> the US, Canada, Australia, NZ, any of "core" Europe, Iceland, or even, 
> these days, South Africa, etc.  Russia seems far better in most 
> industries, but who knows.  Both India and Russia are seriously 
> exporting software development and other tech support, customer 
> support, etc.  If there is corruption, it has to be hands off to avoid 
> souring that kind of business.
>>          ...ken...
> sdw
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