Big Questions about Institutional Corruption
Do institutions (and other networks of dependencies) necessarily become corrupted over time?
- As outside influences shift a system's dependencies over time, adding new improper dependencies through gradual pressure and sudden shifts, the detritus of these forces accumulates. The mechanisms for removing old dependencies seem significantly less well-formed in almost every institution than the mechanisms that are responsible for creating new dependencies.
- For example: Cotton subsidies that were instituted to help farmers during the Great Depression have stayed in place, arguably long past when they were needed. They now serve to support large corporations, impede free trade agreement with other countries, and keep developing countries that depend on cotton exports in relative poverty.
- If institutional corruption generally gets worse over time as improper dependencies accumulate in complex multifaceted systems, what can counteract this process? How can we plan to prevent accumulation before it happens?
- What mechanisms exist and what mechanisms can we design to efficiently "clear out" some of the accumulation of corrupting influences after the fact?
Since we seem to be interested in countering, or perhaps even preventing institutional corruption, it seems that an important question may be: WHEN is corruption? At what point, in what otherwise might be considered a normal social exchange situation, does the situation become corrupt? Is it gradual and continuous, or is there a threshold? Also, when is the earliest in this situation that people can perceive the corruption? Seems that making headway on these questions might help us think about tools that increase sensitivity/perception to corruption, perhaps.
What is being corrupted in institutional corruption?