Must reads rationales and citations
Must reads rationales
Jonathan Rauch: Rauch's explanations best match my actual experiences working Washington. The problem is not simply that money corrupts politics. The problem is that interests fight much harder for policies that are beneficial to them than the general public will fight for policies that are good for everyone. If an interest gains ten million dollars from a regulation at the expense of ten cents from every tax payer, that interest will fight harder than all the tax payers combined. After all, each tax payer has no incentive to lead a fight, as they would only gain 10 cents. This applies whether it's a big media company advocating restrictive copyright laws or NASA arguing for money for projects that do not do anything.
Jackall: From isen's review: Moral Mazes, "is written as if the observer had just parachuted into a Fijian out-island or the Stone-Age Lacandon jungle. But the bizarre alien culture of this book happens to be that of the big, modern, unreconstructed American corporation . . . " It describes how a different -- an outside observer might well call it corrupt -- morality emerges from managers' roles within. Aaron Swartz, pulls this quote in his review of Moral Mazes, where a manager describes his own decision process: "People are always calculating how others will see the decisions they make. ... They know that they have to gauge not just the external . . . market consequences of a decision, but the internal political consequences. And sometimes you can make the right market decision, but it can be the wrong political decision." Here's another good review of Moral Mazes. Moral Mazes draws this picture: corruption emerges from an system of local, internalized norms and values, where ordinary people driven by ordinary motives (desire for approval, acceptance, recognition, power, reward etc.) willingly define their roles in terms of the internal context. Here's another recent relevant blog post.
- Chomsky: Key quotes, (or see Chomsky details): Professor Noam Chomsky is said to be the most quoted living author, and the 8th most quoted of all time. As a professional in linguistics, he uses words in very powerful and persuasive ways. He appears to have made a second vocation of challenging authority. His view of "Corruption" is:
- I think that the United States has been in kind of a pre-fascist mood for years -- and we've been very lucky that every leader who's come along has been a crook. See, people should always be very much in favor of corruption -- I'm not kidding about that. Corruption's a very good thing, because it undermines power ... if somebody shows up who's kind of a Hitler-type -- just wants power, no corruption, straight, makes it all sound appealing, and says, "We want power" -- well, then we'll all be in very bad trouble.
Foucault: What is the proper conduct of the prince? Well, what exactly does that question mean today and how did we arrive at today's understanding of that question?
Lasch: How did we get here?
Solzhenitsyn: This is not just a history book, but rather a cautionary tale of corruption and regrettably of similarities in addition to differences.
Hayek: The systematic study of the forms of legal institutions which will make the competitive system work efficiently has been sadly neglected; and strong arguments can be advanced that serious shortcomings here, particularly with regards to the law of corporations and of patents, not only have made competition work much less effectively than it might have done but have even led to the destruction of competition in many spheres.
Friedman: Why Special Interests Prevail [...] Why are the results of policies so often the opposite of their ostensible objectives? Why do special interests prevail over the general interest? What devices can we use to stop and reverse the process?
Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy: The theme of "corruption" as a destructive element in the history of Ancient Rome pervades the Discourses. What Machiavelli means by "corruption" is debatable, and debated. Of particular interest may be the connection between eras of corruption and popular "tumults" which Machiavelli argued could serve as correctives to corruption.
Diggins: Traces influence of Machiavelli on American political thought, in particular with regard to attempts of, inter alia, Madison, Thoreau, Lincoln, and Emerson to wed individual self-interest with the common good as motivated by moral responsibility to country.
Dewey: A classic work about the challenges of uniting diffuse individuals and inchoate groups into a well-defined "public" capable of advancing their shared interests. This one is especially interesting when read in conjunction with some of Hayek's writings, because, like Hayek, Dewey has an epistemological bent, viewing social problems primarily as problems of knowledge, communication, and coordination.
North: A short, non-technical read that uses a transaction costs approach to examine the development of political, economic, and social institutions. Here are a few passages that seem especially relevant: "The evolution of polities from single absolute rulers to democratic governments is typically conceived as a move toward greater political efficiency.... But it would be wrong to assert that the result is efficient political markets in the same sense as we mean efficient economic markets. The existence of efficient economic markets entails competition so strong that, via arbitrage and information feedback, one approximates the Coase zero transaction cost conditions. Such markets are scarce enough in the economic world and ever scarcer in the political world. (p. 51)" "[T]here are immense scale economies in policing and enforcing agreements by a polity that acts as a third party and uses coercion to enforce agreements. But therein lies the fundamental dilemma.... How does one get the state to behave like an impartial third party? (p. 58) "Put simply, if the state has coercive force, then those who run the state will use that force in their own interest at the expense of the rest of the society. (p. 59)"
Olson: The seminal work on collective action problems.
Schattschneider: A classic of American political science, Semisovereign argues that the pressure system has an upper-class bias. I can't do this book justice from memory; Larry, it's less than 150 pages: you owe it to yourself to read (or re-read) this book.
Sutherland: The causes of corruption are frequently latent, hidden in human psychology. Sutherland's immensely readable Irrationality explains the most common modes of irrational behavious in humans, and how they can cause organisations to act in irrational ways. I believe that irrationality and bias are probably more insidious and widespread causes of corruption than greed or self-interest. I'd recommend reading this one first: many of the other books listed assume rational behaviour. This book explains why this is a dangerous assumption. It also suggests ways in which biases and irrationality can, in practice, be countered.
Must reads citations (for more obscure materials)
Foucault: "Power: Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984, Volume III" (James D. Faubion, ed.; Robert Hurley et al, tr.; Paul Rabinow, series ed.)
Hayek: "The Road to Serfdom" Fiftieth Anniversary Edition, 1994, p. 43
Friedman: "Free to Choose: A Personal Statement", First Harvest Edition, 1990, p. 290