28 May 2012

Corruption: The exception or the rule?



IMF chief Christine Lagarde raised hackles this week when she suggested one way Greeks could get themselves out of the pickle they're in would be to cut back on their national sport of tax-evasion.  She also suggested her tears of pity would be better spent on Nigerien children, forced to walk two hours to school and sit three to a chair, than on profligate Greeks.


 Africans and Greeks: Pity sweepstakes?


The Niger comparison was interesting, as it suffers from some of the same problems as Greece, but at astronomically higher levels. Among them is the one which gives the IMF fits, that stubborn, impossible-to-remove kudzu, the sinister C-word: Corruption.

It has become gospel among international policy-makers that corruption is a big problem, but a fixable one. Bad laws = corruption. Good laws = no corruption.  They thus traipse around the planet giving PowerPoint presentations on how to open your very own Anti-Corruption Ministry, sure that they're leaving little Swedens on the Sahara and Englands on the Euphrates in their wake.

With just a bit of HBD knowledge, a policy-maker might ask: What if corruption were not a product of laws, but of men?  What if corruption came from men's beliefs, their character traits, their deepest biological instincts? What if it is our natural state?  What if it can't be fixed? What then?




Besides the 'bad-laws' fallacy, a second error made by policy-makers is the 'bad-leaders' fallacy.  The poor honest folks in Country X suffer terribly because their leaders are so corrupt. And yet coup/election after coup/election, as if by magic, one bad leader after another comes to power.  Unless these people are being airlifted in from a foreign land, one can presume they are made of the same stuff as their countrymen.

In addition, what the throw-the-bums-out crowd fails to realize is that in corrupt countries, everyone (or almost) is on the take.  The same character traits that drive government ministers to  accept suitcases full of cash are also likely to be found in small shopkeepers who say, 'Do you want a receipt for that? Are you sure? (wink wink)', as well as the customer who responds, 'No no, of course not! (wink wink)'



Lagarde's admonishment to 'Pay your taxes!' is merely spitting into the wind.  In a country where the average taxpayer can buy off the average tax inspector with a sufficiently fat envelope, what precisely is she hoping for? Who watches the watchers?  This has led some Eurocrats to cry, 'Send in foreign tax inspectors!', which would be amusing were it not so disturbing.  Is a country whose government officials are under the control of a foreign power not by definition a colony?

We are thus led to ask: Corruption, that headache of international policy-makers--is it a behavior, or a state of being?



I. The indicators

Were one to search for what it is, exactly, that makes one people so corrupt and the next one so honest, one might begin with Transparency International. This NGO sends its clipboard-toting interviewers to the four corners of the earth to ask the man on the street things like, 'Has you or someone you know been asked to pay a bribe in the last three months?', 'Which branch of the government is the most corrupt in your country?', etc.  The index it then comes up with can be properly called a 'Corruption Perception Index,' as it collects not government statistics but regular joes' opinions.

The 2010 edition (micro-states excluded):




Ethnic European countries only:



Ethnic West-European countries:



One might continue with a look at the World Bank's 'Entreprise Surveys', in which businessmen in various countries are asked how much they have to cough up in bribes to open a business, get licences, permits, etc.





One can also compare regions of the world this way:






...All of which may help give us the what, but not the why.


II. Origins: Some theories

Several theories for corruption have been advanced by the HBD-inclined.  HBD Chick has done the most in-depth work on the societal outcomes of inbreeding vs. outbreeding. As she argues,

[...] for a good 800 to 1600 years, Europeans have not been inbreeding. The conditions which, as described above, can promote the spread of familial altruism genes in a population were removed from European populations. Not surprisingly, European societies today are not tribalistic and very few are clan-based or even centered around the extended family. European societies, especially Northwestern European societies, are founded upon the individual and the nuclear family. Nepotism and corruption are much less frequent. It was here that liberal democracy, based on the rights and obligations of individuals in reciprocally altruistic relationships to one another, was born.

There are some exceptions to the historic pattern of European outbreeding. The periphery of Europe held on to inbreeding practices for much longer than “core” Europe, core Europe being the English, the French, the Germans, the North Italians and possibly the Scandinavians.

Working counter-clockwise around the periphery of Europe, the following populations continued inbreeding, to different degrees and for different lengths of time, beyond the Early Medieval period, sometimes well beyond, unlike core Europeans: the Irish, the Spanish, Southern Italians, the Greeks, the Poles, the Russians and Eastern Europeans in general. Most of these societies still place emphasis on the extended family rather than the individual and the nuclear family; most have relatively high levels of corruption and nepostism and clientelism; and many have shaky democratic systems.  [emphasis ours]

The places in the world where consanguinity still exists today in high levels can be seen here:




  To take an example from recent history, here are two maps of Italy:


[lighter color = less corrupt]





If there is a direct correlation between inbreeding rates and corruption, it has not yet been proved, but the evidence presented thus far is intriguing. [See Audacious Epigone's quantitative work on the question.]


It is, of course, possible to have 'clannishness' or 'familism' without recent cousin marriage.  The connection between corruption and 'familism' has long been advanced, for example by Edward Banfield in his 1958 study of southern Italy, The Moral Basis of a Backward Society.  [note: Parts of southern Italy did practice cousin marriage then; see above.]  In a nutshell, the higher your loyalty toward your family group (be it nuclear, extended, clan, or tribe), the lower your loyalty toward the larger society, i.e. everyone outside your family group.  The Brazilian social anthropologist Roberto DaMatta sums up the attitude this way:

'If I am buying from or selling to a relative, I neither seek profit nor concern myself with money. The same can happen in a transaction with a friend. But, if I am dealing with a stranger, then there are no rules, other than the one of exploiting him to the utmost.' 

The effect on society as a whole is described by María Lucía Victor Barbosa:

'The governing classes are characterized by corruption, nepotism, ideological inconsistency, absence of a vision of the common good, demagogy, opportunism. . . . The exercise of public power in Brazil . . . implies chronic incompetence combined with crookedness.'

Researchers Lipset and Lenz judged that

'[...] corruption has been ubiquitous in complex societies from ancient Egypt, Israel, Rome, and Greece down to the present.'  

According to them, familism is the culprit.  They have in fact created a scale to measure familism in order to test it against already-measured regional corruption levels. Sandholtz reports that 'The data analysis shows that, controlling for income, high scores on both familism and achievement orientation are positively related to corruption levels and statistically significant.'



III. Correlation with other cultural values

Inbreeding and familism could then perhaps be linked to corruption. But what else?  It seems reasonable to ask if other factors could be at play. Cultural values? Character traits?  We have looked before at levels of future time orientation, uncertainty avoidance, performance orientation, in-group collectivism, and societal collectivism in various European countries:





As it turns out, a hint of correlation can be found between corruption levels and lack of future-time orientation:



It would be interesting to explore such a relationship between corruption and other cultural values / character traits.  Of equal interest would be to know if these traits could be changed quickly under outside pressure.  If not, policy-makers would surely need to adjust their expectations.  Of course, this would demand a radical shift in perspective in the halls of power of Brussels, New York, and Washington.  'People are people'--the geocentrism of our age--would have to give way to the recognition of true diversity, with all the discomfort and complexity that entails.

*       *       *

One thing looking at world corruption maps should teach us is that globally, low-corruption societies are not the rule, but the exception.



It is commendable that Northwest Europeans are anxious to export their well-functioning system to the rest of the planet.  It is also obvious, from world migration patterns, that the rest of planet would very much like to live in societies that function as well as Northwest Europeans'.

An HBD-realist perspective, however, recognizes that wishing it won't make it so.  In the harshest possible terms: Corrupt, nepotistic societies are that way because, from top to bottom, they are full of corrupt, nepotistic people.  In different terms: People in such societies have much stronger family ties than Northwest Europeans, with all the good (old people taken care of at home, lower suicide rates) and the bad (large-scale nepotism and bribery).  The biggest lesson for international policy-makers is that one cannot graft a policy from one people to another without grafting the people itself.  And that way lies colonialism--as Greece's current conundrum shows.



 Previously:

27 comments:

jewamongyou said...

The word "corruption" has negative connotations. But, in a country where so much tax money goes toward harmful ends (such as war and anti-white activities in the U.S.), and where the government itself is corrupt, wouldn't tax evasion be a GOOD thing?

Anonymous said...

HBD has a lot to do with corruption, but it's probably not the whole story. Italy is more corrupt than Germany, yet they have similar national IQs.

M.G. said...

JAY--
I agree there are plenty of scenarios where tax evasion can be argued for. But at the very minimum, if one expects the state to provide military, justice, sanitation, and police services, those things have to be paid for somehow. In the Greeks' case, as this rather colorful article helps show, they want not only the basics, but also free public transport, free health care, free education including college, fat pensions at age 50, one worker out of four a civil servant (and at salaries 3x as high as in the private sector)....and all that without paying taxes.

They've been able to get away with it for ten years because using the euro means foreign banks lend to them freely, assuming any bad debts will be taken care of by the northern euro countries. That's what's currently crashing to a halt.

In the U.S., I have a lot of sympathy with the anti-taxers. I think the only solution is a return to more local (state and municipal) power and less federal power, but can that realistically happen in this day and age without a revolution? Maybe that or a long, slow crumbling of federal authority.


Anon--
HBD has a lot to do with corruption, but it's probably not the whole story. Italy is more corrupt than Germany, yet they have similar national IQs.

Yes, and I do try to avoid equating HBD with IQ. I did not in fact mention IQ anywhere in my post, because the HBD aspects I'm interested in are 'cultural values' or 'character traits.' (which may or may not be correlated to intelligence) In the post, for example, I mentioned future orientation, uncertainty avoidance, collectivism, etc., and now I've gone back and added those tables just to be clear that that's where my focus is. It seems there is much more at work in the way a society comports itself than just IQ level.

Anonymous said...

"and where the government itself is corrupt, wouldn't tax evasion be a GOOD thing?"

This isn't about tax evasion as a thing in itself though. It's about the possibility that corruption is an innate characteristic of inbred populations regardless of whether any individual government is good or bad.

It seems to me the evidence is very clear that the best countries are a product of IQ x something else and a very good proxy for that something else is the inverse of their corruption index.

Audacious Epigone said...

Searching around, I'm not seeing a hard correlation between consanguinity rates and corruption (as measured by Transparency International) having been determined. Top search results are you and HBD Chick. Is anyone aware of anything statistically rigorous? If not, I'll run the numbers using simple averages for rates found at consang.net, much in the same way Lynn and Vanhanen did for national IQ estimates.

M.G. said...

Audacious Epigone--
HBD Chick is the only person I have encountered who studies the inbreeding-corruption connection; I've never seen an academic study on it. I just left a comment at her site asking if she's ever run any numbers. If she hasn't, I would be very interested to see what you could come up with.

hbd chick said...

@the audacious one - "If not, I'll run the numbers using simple averages for rates found at consang.net...."

what we are talking about here when we discuss inbreeding vs. outbreeding and nepotism and/or corruption are types of altruistic behaviors -- and these behaviors/attitudes have evolved differently in different populations, of course, over time. so you can't just take a population that has been inbreeding for scores of generations, and likely evolved certain altruistic behaviors, and change their behavior patterns via just one or two generations of outbreeding. there is going to be some lag-time.

why do i say this? because the problem with using the consang.net numbers for the kind of analysis you describe is that there is no time depth to them. if you look at the data @consang.net, it appears as though the chinese have similar inbreeding/outbreeding rates to western europe or canada, but that's only in the last generation or so (and even that is debatable). as i've blogged about, the chinese have been inbreeding for literally millennia. any effects that's had on altruistic behaviors are NOT going to be overturned in one or two generations.

what needs to be done is that the histories of inbreeding/outbreeding in different populations need to be quantified (part of my ongoing, neverending project @hbd chick (~_^) ), and then those numbers need to be compared to transparency international's and/or other figures.

hbd chick said...

@anonymous - "HBD has a lot to do with corruption, but it's probably not the whole story. Italy is more corrupt than Germany, yet they have similar national IQs."

like m.g. says, there's more to human biodiversity than iq. a LOT more.

Audacious Epigone said...

HBD Chickadee,

How about running the numbers with your important caveat included?

hbd chick said...

@audacious - "How about running the numbers with your important caveat included?"

yeah, i can do that. (^_^) i'm sure i messed around with this once before, tho, but i can't find a spreadsheet for it anywhere (prolly just bad housekeeping). i'm actually very sure i did because the results (which were screwy) got me to thinking that there must be more to this all than just today's consanguinity rates ... and the rest, as they say, is history. (~_^)

i might not get to it until the week after next, tho (next week promises to be very busy - i hate when real life interrupts with my virtual one! (~_^) ).

if you feel like working on it before then, feel free! (^_^)

hbd chick said...

@m.g. - "IMF chief Christine Lagarde raised hackles this week when she suggested one way Greeks could get themselves out of the pickle they're in would be to cut back on their national sport of tax-evasion."

i've had this idea for a post for a long time now which will be titled...

"Why the Greeks don't pay their taxes"

...but i haven't worked out the content yet. (^_^)

the follow up post will be...

"Why the Italians don't pay their taxes, either"

hbd chick said...

@m.g. - "Researchers Lipset and Lenz judged that

'[...] corruption has been ubiquitous in complex societies from ancient Egypt, Israel, Rome, and Greece down to the present.'

According to them, familism is the culprit. They have in fact created a scale to measure familism in order to test it against already-measured regional corruption levels."


oh that's very interesting! thanks for that link.

i think there's a direct link between familism and mating patterns -- the closer and longer (i.e. number of generations) the mating the greater the familism -- or, at least, the greater likelihood that familism attitudes/sentiments will be selected for.

Audacious Epigone said...

Chickadee,

I'll do it. As of a few minutes ago, I have an excel spreadsheet available to any who may be interested in doing something with the data in the future as well.

Anonymous said...

"why do i say this? because the problem with using the consang.net numbers for the kind of analysis you describe is that there is no time depth to them"

I think the metric really needed to prove this isn't current cousin marriage - as it's just a snapshot of today - but something like the average IBD within a population as that will be a cumulative measure of the rate in the past up to and including the present.

However in lieu of that where countries haven't changed much and you can assume their inbreeding rate in the past was similar then if the theory is correct you should be able to see a direct correlation using their current consanquinity rates.

if so the anomalies will be those countries where there have been significant changes in this in the post-war period either through consciously adopting western mores or as a side-effect of moving from the countryside in particular places like Singapore, Japan, Korea.

Olave d'Estienne said...

Too bad Greenland didn't get a color on the corruption map. Since it would logically inherit mother country Denmark's low corruption color, it would reïnforce the correlation between latitude and corruption.

hbd chick said...

@anonymous - "I think the metric really needed to prove this isn't current cousin marriage - as it's just a snapshot of today - but something like the average IBD within a population as that will be a cumulative measure of the rate in the past up to and including the present."

yes, precisely.

@anonymous - "However in lieu of that where countries haven't changed much and you can assume their inbreeding rate in the past was similar then if the theory is correct you should be able to see a direct correlation using their current consanquinity rates."

that's very tricky. in my experience, it can be hard to guess the past mating patterns of a population (and dangerous, too, if what we're trying to figure out is if long-term mating patterns affect, say, corruption levels).

take the italians, for example: northern italians today (well, the 1960s) - very low consanguinity rates, southern italians - pretty high consanguinity rates. however, if you go back to 1910, the consanguinity rates for northern italians were something like five to six times higher than the 1960s. it really is hard to guess what a population in the past was up to mating-wise.

@anonymous - "if so the anomalies will be those countries where there have been significant changes in this in the post-war period...."

i think the biggest anomalies, looking at the consang.net map, are: china & japan, russia & eastern europe, and all of latin america. all of these places may not have practiced very close cousin marriage in the past (like eastern europe, for example), but i know they have been otherwise mating very endogamously -- as a broad pattern.

suddenly, all of these anomalies i have mentioned are like half the globe. that's why i feel the consang.net data is difficult to work with.

hbd chickadee said...

@the audacious one - "I'll do it."

cool! i look forward to seeing what you come up with. it's useful, too, to have someone else crunch the numbers to make sure i don't insert any of my own biases. (~_^) thanks!

@the audacious one - "As of a few minutes ago, I have an excel spreadsheet available to any who may be interested in doing something with the data in the future as well."

cool!

Harold said...

I am reminded of something someone once said in a mafia movie I once saw (perhaps Donnie Brasco). The gist of it was that as Sicilians they had been brought up to despise the police, because the police had taken an oath to arrest members of their own families when they committed crimes.

M.G. said...

Harold--
Yes, that feeling of 'my family, right or wrong' seems to have all but disappeared in NW Europeans, but it's alive and well in many other places. I really think more and more it must be biological. (kin altruism vs. reciprocal altruism) As a mostly Anglo-Germanic, I just can't imagine not turning in a family member who'd committed a crime. But to a southern Italian, my behavior must look beyond bizarre. This mutual incomprehension leads to a lot of name-calling, but I think international policy-makers should keep a cool head, work these differences into their calculations, and adjust policy accordingly rather than moralize. Of course, not everyone agrees with that perspective.

M.G. said...

Note: Audacious Epigone has checked the numbers for a corruption-inbreeding correlation; the results are here. Original post has been modified to add this link.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I have been following this via sailer. I don't want to entangle you in extra controversies, but bear in mind when you are evaluating the US, it is only partly a NE European, or even European nation. Our institutions are NW European. Our actual corruption index, compared to what one would expect if one broke our population out by regions of origin*, is better than that.

But not hugely better. The US may actually be a good way to measure how much institutions can overwrite the HBD substrate.

*That is, factoring in the average of Latin American nations for that fraction of our population which is Latin American. Y'know, one of those streams of data no one wants to be seen holding when the music stops.

Anonymous said...

"With just a bit of HBD knowledge, a policy-maker might ask: What if corruption were not a product of laws, but of men? What if corruption came from men's beliefs, their character traits, their deepest biological instincts? What if it is our natural state? What if it can't be fixed? What then?"

With just a bit of John Calvin. Anyone who is at all acquainted with Calvin's writings (especially in his "Institutes") knows that this truth of total depravity is taught or presupposed on almost every page. One quotation will suffice for our purpose. In it he demonstrates his dependence upon Augustine. In discussing Augustine's use of the term "concupiscence" he writes:

...our nature is not only destitute of all good, but is so fertile in all evils that it cannot remain inactive. Those who have called it concupiscence have used an expression not improper, if it were only added, which is far from being conceded by most persons, that everything in man, the understanding and will, the soul and body, is polluted and engrossed by this concupiscence; or, to express it more briefly, that man is of himself nothing else but concupiscence. (Institutes, Vol. I, Bk. II, Chap. 1, Para. 8; Allen translation.)"

The whole BS about people being good if you just teach them to do better is liberal wishful thinking. John Calvin was a fanatical religionist but he could see what was right in front of him. Modern libs just imagine all manner of improbable causes for human failing while ignoring the obvious.

M.G. said...

AVI--
Your point is well taken. The U.S.'s NW European character was dealt a huge blow by the late 19th c. migration waves, huger still the waves post-1965. But yes, the dominant culture has stayed Anglo-Saxon. I've heard it suggested that both Greek and S. Italian immigrants have done very well in the U.S. because something about taking them out of their natural milieu (where people like themselves are in charge) and subjecting them to Anglo-Saxon constraints allows them to thrive. No idea if there's merit to that though.

Old Irish machine politics and Italian mafias aside, the giant recent Latin American waves may be well and truly erasing Anglo-Saxon America from parts of this nation. Who can say what impact the smaller but still significant East Asian, Arab, and Indian waves will have on leadership and corruption. And then the Afro governance question (see the post above this one) is more and more salient too. The picture's getting more complex all the time, and it's impossible to inject all that nuance into a single 'corruption score.'

JI said...

It looks like the level of perceived corruption is proportional to the total (or average) amount of melanin in the population. Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

"I've heard it suggested that both Greek and S. Italian immigrants have done very well in the U.S. because something about taking them out of their natural milieu (where people like themselves are in charge) and subjecting them to Anglo-Saxon constraints allows them to thrive."

Clannish populations simply have a competitive advantage when they live among open individualistic populations because they compete as a group and don't have the same type of moral restraint (they have family-centric moral restraint rather than ideal-centric).

The main distinction is at what level they compete e.g. a low average IQ clannish group might compete in the organised or semi-organised crime niche, an average IQ group might compete in the shopkeeper niche, a high IQ group might compete in the banking niche.

When clannish people are among other clannish people the advantage is nullified.

Anonymous said...

It would be more effective to look at the effect of laws and their enforcement on corruption levels.

I don't discount the possible effect of HBD on corruption, but one look at Singapore, which has a mixed Asian population, will tell you that strict punishments can go a long way towards minimizing corruption, no matter how inclined the population might be towards such behavior.

How reliable are the legal systems in the countries above? There is certainly a strong correlation between well-functioning legal systems and low corruption levels. Do well-functioning legal systems have any relation to IQ? Sure, but it's not so clear. Look at China.

Anonymous said...

"There is certainly a strong correlation between well-functioning legal systems and low corruption levels."

Yes. Naturally corrupt countries will tend to have corrupt legal systems.

However you're right it can be imposed i.e. British colonial rule where an outbred population imposed the anti-corruption culture they'd gradually developed over time (and i'd guess that aspect of British rule was quite popular - if begrudgingly so).

People in those countries can see how corruption is bad for everybody but they won't stop doing it themselves because corrupt countries equal low-trust countries so for them to stop being corrupt is a kind of unilateral disarmament because "everyone else" will keep doing it.

So there are two components: the biological one and the cultural (legal) one. Normally if a people are biologically inclined to corruption their culture will reinforce it. As people become less biologically inclined they will develop an anti-corruption culture. That latter culture can then be imposed on other people and if strict enough will work - and quite possibly be very popular - but if you don't change the biology then as soon as the rod is removed people will go back to their natural way because "everyone else will do it so we have to."