Did Societies Evolve To Be Corrupt?

Riot PoliceGood question. Alasdair Wilkins asks on io9.com:

Corruption is as old as human history. For as long as people have organized themselves into groups with powerful leaders, those leaders have sometimes abused their power. But evolutionary biologists say corruption might actually be holding societies together.

That’s the theory put forward by evolutionary biologists Francisco Ubeda and Edgar Duenez. The pair used game theory to figure out why people cooperate to form a society even though the ones in charge are corrupt. The model they developed assumes that government officials and law enforcers — in other words, the individuals responsible for punishing noncooperators — can get away with a certain amount of noncooperation themselves in the form of corruption, and that they can sidestep most punishments when caught being corrupt.

Their findings make a lot of intuitive sense — most people will continue to cooperate to keep their society together, in part because they don’t want to be punished by law enforcers. People will tolerate a certain amount of corruption from their leaders and law enforcers as long as there isn’t too much of it. Above a certain level of corruption, people stop seeing the point of cooperating and society begins to break down.

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  • Haystack

    I would ask a slightly different question: Can societies function without some degree of corruption? What would happen if every rule was rigidly followed?

    • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

      good point…its kind of an inevitability of human nature…built into any system as fast as that system can be put together, so all we can really do is minimize its impact

  • Haystack

    I would ask a slightly different question: Can societies function without some degree of corruption? What would happen if every rule was rigidly followed?

  • Hazy Daisy

    It’s NOT cooperation when power relations are as asymmetric as they are between cop and citizen (or politician and citizen). It’s obedience. I strongly resist attempts to disguise the nature of the power relations between those who are legally entitled to use lethal force and those who are so powerless that resisting arrest constitutes a crime all by itself. Citizens may cooperate among themselves but must OBEY the law, including the most unjust laws. Law enforcement flatters gullible, self-satisfied burghers that it seeks their cooperation rather than their unquestioning obedience. Fool if you believe them.

    • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

      While I agree with your general sentiment, I must disagree on the point that citizens “must OBEY”, the laws.

      The trick is, don’t get caught.

      I’ve done it both ways and let me tell you, the “don’t get caught” method is by far the better choice.

      So, now that we know we can break the law too (under the same moral justification provided by this article if necessary), what’re we going to decide to do?

  • Hazy Daisy

    It’s NOT cooperation when power relations are as asymmetric as they are between cop and citizen (or politician and citizen). It’s obedience. I strongly resist attempts to disguise the nature of the power relations between those who are legally entitled to use lethal force and those who are so powerless that resisting arrest constitutes a crime all by itself. Citizens may cooperate among themselves but must OBEY the law, including the most unjust laws. Law enforcement flatters gullible, self-satisfied burghers that it seeks their cooperation rather than their unquestioning obedience. Fool if you believe them.

  • http://www.ContraControl.com/ Zenc

    While I agree with your general sentiment, I must disagree on the point that citizens “must OBEY”, the laws.

    The trick is, don’t get caught.

    I’ve done it both ways and let me tell you, the “don’t get caught” method is by far the better choice.

    So, now that we know we can break the law too (under the same moral justification provided by this article if necessary), what’re we going to decide to do?

  • Alturn

    We are just becoming aware of corruption that has long existed. We are just now evolving to the point where we dislike the smell. Next we will do something about it.

    Regarding corruption:
    “Poverty, disease and corruption are burdens which can be cured only by an upsurge of creative energy which has been released by the Supreme Being into creation. No one can understand ‘how’ or ‘why’. But it can be experienced. Maitreya says: “No one is bound to be a slave. The moment life begins to evolve in time and space (the ‘becoming’), the goal is salvation.””

    “Where there is wealth there you will find complacency and that is the source of corruption. Choose any politician and you will find that he is vulnerable to this dark side of nature. As power and wealth corrupts, the first step always lies in sex. The ultimate step is drugs and suicide.”

    ““Wherever there is complacency there is the seed of corruption, chaos, confusion and ultimate destruction.”
    The politicians have been using their position to accrue material wealth and have used the forces of law and order to maintain their position of power. These tactics used to be employed by the kings of old. Now politicians behave like kings in the name of the people. They have used their position to create an élite class of power and wealth while others have been deprived of food, health, education, and left to kill themselves with drugs.”

    “Our future on this planet is destined to be one of happiness where everyone can enjoy life to the full. Corruption and chaos have been created by politicians and the ‘Brothers’ have come to end all of that and to make the politicians realize that they are not the masters but the servants of the people.”
    - World Teacher Maitreya through an associate and reported in Share International magazine

  • Alturn

    We are just becoming aware of corruption that has long existed. We are just now evolving to the point where we dislike the smell. Next we will do something about it.

    “Poverty, disease and corruption are burdens which can be cured only by an upsurge of creative energy which has been released by the Supreme Being into creation. No one can understand ‘how’ or ‘why’. But it can be experienced. Maitreya says: “No one is bound to be a slave. The moment life begins to evolve in time and space (the ‘becoming’), the goal is salvation.””

    “Where there is wealth there you will find complacency and that is the source of corruption. Choose any politician and you will find that he is vulnerable to this dark side of nature. As power and wealth corrupts, the first step always lies in sex. The ultimate step is drugs and suicide.”

    ““Wherever there is complacency there is the seed of corruption, chaos, confusion and ultimate destruction.”
    The politicians have been using their position to accrue material wealth and have used the forces of law and order to maintain their position of power. These tactics used to be employed by the kings of old. Now politicians behave like kings in the name of the people. They have used their position to create an élite class of power and wealth while others have been deprived of food, health, education, and left to kill themselves with drugs.”

    “Our future on this planet is destined to be one of happiness where everyone can enjoy life to the full. Corruption and chaos have been created by politicians and the ‘Brothers’ have come to end all of that and to make the politicians realize that they are not the masters but the servants of the people.”

  • Newt

    “Law enforcers often enjoy privileges that allow them to avoid the full force of the law when they breach it. Law enforcing results in the general public abiding by the law. Thus law enforcers enjoy the benefits of a lawful society and are compensated for their law enforcing by being able to dodge the law…”

    Cute & probably true. You would think “making way more money than you’re actually qualified to otherwise” would be sufficient, but then, if you’re specifically getting into law enforcement so as to break the law yourself with impunity, why make $50K a year when you can take bribes and make $200K?

  • Newt

    “Law enforcers often enjoy privileges that allow them to avoid the full force of the law when they breach it. Law enforcing results in the general public abiding by the law. Thus law enforcers enjoy the benefits of a lawful society and are compensated for their law enforcing by being able to dodge the law…”

    Cute & probably true. You would think “making way more money than you’re actually qualified to otherwise” would be sufficient, but then, if you’re specifically getting into law enforcement so as to break the law yourself with impunity, why make $50K a year when you can take bribes and make $200K?

  • Even

    Manning should be executed. This is treason in time of war. Hope he suffers for the rest of his life. Sadly he wont face the firing squad he deserves. I am sure that fifty more years of isolation will help him realize the error of his ways.

    • Andrew

      If the President claims the right to declare any American citizen a terrorist and execute them without judicial oversight, and the judicial and legislative branches go along, I fail to see anything particularly wrong with citizens committing treason against such a government.

      • Andrew

        Correction: I typed “execute” where I meant to type “assassinate.”

      • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

        Theres a lot of merit to that. You can’t commit treason against a body so violently corrupt that it mocks its own founding documents, abuses its populace, and exceeds its authority daily. Treason would be collaborating with such a government. (Historical note: How many people cheer the nobility and goodness of the French Vichy regime from WW2?)

    • Hadrian999

      what error? he did americans a favor, not only did he show people how porous the security was on these documents but he also gave people an idea of what kind of loathsome activities are going on in our name and on our dime.

  • Even

    Manning should be executed. This is treason in time of war. Hope he suffers for the rest of his life. Sadly he wont face the firing squad he deserves. I am sure that fifty more years of isolation will help him realize the error of his ways.

  • Andrew

    If the President claims the right to declare any American citizen a terrorist and execute them without judicial oversight, and the judicial and legislative branches go along, I fail to see anything particularly wrong with citizens committing treason against such a government.

  • Hadrian999

    what error? he did americans a favor, not only did he show people how porous the security was on these documents but he also gave people an idea of what kind of loathsome activities are going on in our name and on our dime.

  • Andrew

    Correction: I typed “execute” where I meant to type “assassinate.”

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Theres a lot of merit to that. You can’t commit treason against a body so violently corrupt that it mocks its own founding documents, abuses its populace, and exceeds its authority daily. Treason would be collaborating with such a government. (Historical note: How many people cheer the nobility and goodness of the French Vichy regime from WW2?)

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    good point…its kind of an inevitability of human nature…built into any system as fast as that system can be put together, so all we can really do is minimize its impact

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