Corruption corrodes national economy, makes life difficult for citizens and inhibits investors not interested or skilled in managing corrupt politicians and bureaucratic establishment. There are many facets to corruption. Some corruption involves paying off power holders (politicians, bureaucrats, police, judges, etc and middlemen including clerks and peons who control access to officials or process paper work). Some corruption reflects on the prevailing morality and ethical values in the country, as well as international politics. This blog addresses several facets of corruptions and offers some viable solution to tackle it.
To solve the wide spread corruption problems of India several strategies are suggested:
- A publicly voted national code of conduct to encourage citizens to be disciplined or morally and ethically responsible by not practicing selfish business practices.
- Honoring basic human rights guaranteed to all citizens in the constitution.
- Implement a legal framework free of misinterpretations to make it easy for the judiciary and citizens to operate with to bring down corruption.
- Offering reformed comprehensive education to citizens to cultivate discipline, and to act morally and ethically.
- Implementing good governance practices.
- Improving good governance by eliminating heavy handed bureaucracy (license raj).
- Conforming to a globally agreed national code to conduct international business and to eliminate violation of national integrity by the strategic depths seekers and paranoid leaders.
This blog covers following topics:
- Two Categories of Corruption
- Moral and Ethical Corruption
- Values and Law
- Corruption in India
- Fixing Corruption
- Fixing Values
- Corruption and Governance
- Morality and International Politics
- Acknowledgement, References and notes
Two Categories of Corruption
Corruption may be divided into two broad categories:
- Corrupt have a broken regulatory system of moral and ethical values and
- Corruption is money transactions not conforming to laws of the country.
In recent times world bodies have used a set of criteria to compiled “Corruption Perceptions Index” to gauge degree of corruption in 160+ nations. It attempts to present a holistic view comparing corruption on same basis. According to this index many developed democratic lands, although corrupt, are less so than nations with emerging economies. Most kleptocracies – communist and theocratic or a religious political ideology dominated lands rank among most corrupt nations.
Different set of moral and ethical values guide different political ideologies. Some organizations like UN, IEA, and Global Subsidy Initiatives, etc have developed definitions of corruptions that are not necessarily consistent with laws of many countries. Communists, for example, never feel that they have much corruption because their definition is very different than the one used by capitalists.
Most Arab and want-to-be Arab nations practice some variation of theocracy and some nominal democracies, like Pakistan, Egypt, Tunisia, Iran and Indonesia to name a few of 57 Muslim majority lands may be predatory states that follow tenets of Islamic political ideology to establish kleptocracies exploited by feudalists, warlords, army generals, clerics and other politically motivated citizens for personal gains. A predatory state is a kleptocracy with a single bandit eliminating competition, monopolizing theft and transforming into a kleptocrat (dictator). The revolutions taking place (January – February 2011) in Muslim lands of Africa and Middle East illustrates my point.
Moral and Ethical Corruption
Unlike in theocratic nations, morality and ethics can not be legislated in multi-cultural multi-ethnic constitutional democracies with basic human rights guaranteed to all citizens. The constitutional democracies can adopt a unified code of discipline approved by voters to define state sponsored moral and ethical values. For national unity it is important for common persons to conform to a unified code of discipline – a set of values – for being good citizen. A national code of discipline can be implemented with reformed comprehensive education.
Moral and ethical values are imposed by religious and social orders. These values are generally observed by believers and ideologues based on interpretations of scriptures and the political ideology. The believers in the ideologue states deny same human rights to all its citizens and force citizens to conform to government mandated moral and ethical values; sharia for Muslims and a manifesto for communist.
However, the personal values and beliefs have no legal force in constitutional democracies. The personal values and beliefs may be misinterpretations of scriptures. Every religion offers a set of scriptures embedded with various personal values for the believers.
Given such liberties with morality and ethics, it is hard but possible to define corruption as my friend Sudhir Krishna (SK) did by stating, “Corruption in the moral sense arises out of selfishness and a lack of concern for fellow beings and society.”
SK elaborated, “Moral standard could be based on religious values.” But personally SK defined it on compassion and empathy. If individuals based their actions on concern for others and the general welfare, they may well exceed the legal standard.
I agree with SK, “Even well-meaning people may have trouble with the “gray” zone, where it is not clear as to what the right course of action might be. For example, if one stops buying goods from a place using child labor, an unintended consequence might be that the children will be discharged and not have enough to eat. Ethical dilemmas involve drawing the line somewhere. Corruption here is about not reflecting on the issues but taking the most expedient and self-serving route.”
Values and Law
The national laws are backed with power enshrined in the justice system by the state. Unlike the laws of constitutional democracies, believers are free to disregard any values they are not comfortable with. The world in 21st century is destabilized by jihadis, who are radical fundamentalist believers committed to personal code of conduct and values that are not same as ours.
Corruption in India
To discuss corruption related to money and goods exchanges the informed citizen should have a working definition of corruption. In Indian context, a working definition of corruption is, “any business transaction performed in black market to generate income by anyone – poor, rich, private citizen or government employee – is black money.” Black market in India feeds parallel economy estimated to be about $640 billions a year and about 50% of the white economy.
SK in principle agreed with me that a comprehensive definition needs both a legal standard and a moral standard. SK offered a definition, “Legal standard involves the constitution, laws, statutes, regulations, codes, standards, specifications, policies, procedures, etc. Corruption is a deviation from these standards.”
SK illustrated, “if it is specified that the fee for a birth certificate is 100 rupees but the clerk wants something above and beyond that, we have a deviation and hence corruption.” Black market is also a deviation and a “white collar crime.” Legal framework should incorporate stiff punishment for white collar criminals.
The legal standard to be considered just and fair should be voted in by people in the interest of national unity. The laws of despotic regimes or the ideological states are considered unjust and unfair and hence, it is a national problem if the shariah is applied to prosecute non-Muslims and if the manifesto is used to punish those who defy communists.
My definition of corruption in India is limited to illegal money and goods transactions in black money. A Google search offered many more definitions of corruption, and they all acknowledge the essential element of legal requirements. A sampling of Google search for “definition of corruption” follows:
- Dictionary defines corruption, “corruptness: lack of integrity or honesty (especially susceptibility to bribery); use of a position of trust for dishonest gain.”
- A handbook on political corruption is complied by Arnold J. Heidenheimer, Michael Johnston
- Legal definition of corruption is “An act done with intent to give some advantage inconsistent with official duty and the rights of others. It includes bribery, but is more comprehensive; because an act may be corruptly done, though the advantage to be derived from it is for some but not offered to others.”
- In business situations corruption often results from patronage. Business dictionary defines corruption as, “giving or obtaining advantage through means, which are illegitimate, immoral, and/or inconsistent with one’s duty or the rights of others.”
By any standards except that of moral and ethical values, the judiciary and citizens requires a legal framework to operate with to bring down corruption. Citizens need to cultivate discipline to act morally and ethically. Discipline means conforming to acceptable moral and ethical standards or a uniform national code of conduct; respecting human rights granted to all in a constitutional democracy of a multi-religious and multiethnic nation.
Black market exists as proper legal system/framework is not in place in India. In America many laws exist that have reduced black market at the level of common person but not at higher levels – politicians and big businesses. America politicians collect millions – hundreds of millions to get elected as president – in campaign contributions by exploiting big loopholes in the laws. The legal framework makes American system transparent and India can learn from it.
Recently I came across several articles and also a Power Point presentation that the black money held by Indians in foreign banks may be as much as $1.5 trillions. In 1995, an estimate was Indians had stacked away in foreign banks about $225 billion, which in 2008 was valued at under $500 billion. This number appears to be a third of what some politically motivated commentators claim to be the amount of black money held by Indians in foreign banks.
I am all for fixing corruption by implementing proper legal framework. I am not for making political statements by politically motivated commentators and laptop warriors. The adoption of a legal framework is a step for good governance. Legal framework that eliminates misinterpretations will and should help judiciary to expedite resolution of cases related to corruption and inhibit black market by “white collar” criminals. It will also offer transparency, discourage wide spread white collar crime and may help silence political opportunists, who link the black money in foreign banks to poverty – 80% Indians earning less than Rs 100 per day.
Implementing reformed comprehensive education is a viable possibility to instill discipline consistent with a national code of conduct for good citizenship.
At national level, fixing corruption requires good governance and improving prevailing morality and ethics by replacing it with a national code of conduct to be considered good citizen. Politicians and policy makers have implement policies that have helped reduce corruption to practically zero in some developed Scandinavian lands, which are considered to be nations with excellent governance. Most developed nations like America have good, not excellent governance as they are more corrupt than Scandinavian nations according to the corruption perception index.
International systems based on a uniform code of conduct are being developed to help resolve international disputes and improve cooperation. For resolving international business disputes WTO sponsors the DOHA conferences. DOHA conferences are also sponsored to tackle other issues include interfaith dialogue, education, etc. It is important that to be effective and meaningful the interfaith dialogue emphasizes mutual respect for all faiths and not just tolerance as has been the case with some faiths that actively proselytize to pursue global domination.
Colonization by today’s global standards may be regarded as corrupt morality. Colonization has been a historical reality; see the section on morality and international politics.
Education for Fixing Values
Legislating morality and ethics, of course, is beyond powers of the policy makers. Governments, however, can implement policies to improve today’s objective educational system by making it a comprehensive with incorporation of science of living (see acknowledgements) that teaches personal discipline and spiritual practices to improve attitudes and behavior patterns for a responsible member of the society.
In a comprehensive system every person is educated to be disciplined for practicing good behavior required of a responsible member of society and community. Good discipline comes from within with spiritual education with science of living. Comprehensive education compliments the objective education and it incorporates learning principles and practices of science of living. The science of living focuses on spiritual development by learning practices for positive thinking. Learning to think positively requires awakening intuition, transendenting consciousness by improving generation of the vital energy and sensitizing neuro-endocrine system to optimize hormonal secretions by ductless glands (endocrines) to maintain a balanced emotional equilibrium at all times.
It surprises many, educated or not, to see people resorting to corruption represented by dishonesty, theft, oppression and anger. In reality, there is nothing unnatural about it. Unlike the focus of the comprehensive education on developing discipline and intellect, the objective system concentrates only on quickening the intellect, which enables people and laptop warriors to argue and to reason. The biased laptop warriors generally are selfish and deceptive.
Paradoxically, the tendencies to serve personal interests and needs by practicing deception are a direct result of one-sided intellectual development. Consequently, intellectuals, scholars and judges are frequently encountered falling pray to corrupt practices, traders indulging in smuggling and adulteration, and government employees accepting hush money and bribes. Within the framework of social mores warranted by the objective education such aberrations are not treated as objectionable but it should be. The utilitarian principle (pragmatism?) dictates its own logic.
Viewed dispassionately and scientifically corruption associated with questionable morality and ethics represented by various complexes arise in persons with one-sided intellectual development, unaware of the other side – discipline. In spite of riches and achievements such persons are under severe emotional stress and mental tensions. As individuals they have a right to act independently and discriminate between what is useful and baneful for them. Unless trained to be self-disciplined by cultivation of science of living the morality and ethical standards of the society they belong to will stagnate or drift downwards.
I will let you recall or look up the Tea party Republican’s rhetoric to illustrate pathological state of lies some politicians used during the US elections of 2010 The corrupting influences of one-sided development of intellect devoid of self-discipline allows big politicians to engage in pathological state of lies and scientists to practices that pose a serious threat to humanity as its survival is threatened by degradation of environment, potential for warfare with weapons of mass destruction, global warming due to depletion of ozone in upper atmosphere, etc. In a society they belong to the values suffer for lack of self-discipline or self-restrain. In an increasingly globalizing world consequences of these actions will affect us all.
Corruption and Governance
Corruption, repression of minorities, denial of fundamental human rights, and gender and faith based inequalities are hall mark of bad government. Bad governments have weak economies as opportunities are limited for development of a dynamic economy, the blood line of economic power of any nation.
Good governance and small government attracts investors to set up businesses and create jobs for the development of a dynamic economy.
- If official documents are required for public to conduct business of buying and selling property and goods in overly regulated bureaucracy then persons in charge of issuing official documents may delay actions to impede the business transaction in timely manner.
- In license raj (India before 1991), trying to get a permit to set up a business required passing money through so many different hands. Trying to open up, you had to pay people off. Trying to stay open, you had to pay people off. Trying to export goods, you had to pay people off. By the time you paid everybody off, it wasn’t a very profitable venture and businesses suffered.
- Businesses create jobs; no business, no job – it is that simple and economic development is stymied.
Good governance with clean and small government means less bureaucracy in a low operating costs government. Bloated bureaucracy not only makes it expensive to operate government it also offers more opportunities for corrupt practices.
Morality and International Politics
Historically, by today’s standards, corrupt morality was used by Roman Catholics to make extraterritorial gains with colonization of Africa and Middle East. In colonies, they proselytized to spread Christianity under the sword, (3rd century to the rise Islam in 7th century).
Muslim conquerors of non-Islamic lands (from 7th to 19th century) were even more aggressive. Soviet leadership (for about 70 years before collapse of USSR in 1991) and that of Pakistan (for last 64 years) openly and publicly followed a morality to further their case, meaning reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie and to cheat.
Soviets built a huge empire by expanding to Eastern Europe, Far East and Central Asia over 70 years and acquired deep strategic depth against the enemy (Western Europe and USA) until it collapsed. Pakistan has consistently tried to acquire “strategic depth” in Afghanistan and launched three wars against India to occupy India’s Kashmir state.
Both Soviets and Pakistan considered their relativistic behavior moral, not immoral. While soviet leaderships didn’t believe in God or religion Pakistanis flaunt Allah and Islam along with outrageous standards of morality. These leaderships don’t subscribe to our sense of morality. They don’t believe in after life. Only morality they recognize is what will advance the cause of communism and Islam.
Acknowledgements, References and notes
I have extensively used the ideas from the following publications by Jain Vishva Bharati (JVB), Landu, Rajasthan (India). Note Landu and Ludnun are same with zip code 341 206.
- “The Art of Positive Thinking,” English Translation by R. K. Seth of a Hindi book, “Kaise Sochen?” by Acharya Shri Mahaprajna; JVB, Ludnun 341 306
- “Science of Living,” at http://www.jainworld.com/phil/sol/sol02.htm edited by Muni Mahendra Kumar; JVB
Note: A 3,500 word appendix with supplementary information and discussions is available upon request;.
References and notes:
- A discussion of corruption issues with Dr Bhamy Shenoy during preparation of the blog helped crystallize the analysis.
- “Corruption Perceptions Index” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page.
- Stealing is a crime. Kleptocrats are thieves. 1010 1030 2010 by Kishan Bhatia (1,299 words) at ivarta.com; http://www.blogs.ivarta.com/Stealing-crime-Kleptocrats-are-thieves/blog-389.htm)
- Sudhir Krishna, e-message, February 1, 2011
- Political corruption: a handbook By Arnold J. Heidenheimer, Michael Johnston at http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=fiVeX-lICtcC&oi=fnd&pg=PR11&dq=definition+of+corruption&ots=sQl4SFQvJs&sig=l3S59wv_EhMXjCNjhwv3isbKkrE#v=onepage&q=definition%20of%20corruption&f=false
- Legal definition of corruption is at http://www.lectlaw.com/def/c314.htm
- Business dictionary, http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/corruption.html
- Tolerance Isn’t Good Enough: The Need for Mutual Respect in Interfaith Relations 1211 2010 by Rajiv Malhotra, Founder, Infinity Foundation at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rajiv-malhotra/hypocrisy-of-tolerance_b_792239.html
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