Whenever someone bemoans corruption, especially, so-called, “black corruption” I just smile and think of a quote by landmark economist Daniel Kahneman, who said, “Our comforting conviction that the world makes sense rests on a secure foundation: our almost unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance.” I then lament the fact that corruption has no colour, much like money. The contention that corruption is black is both racist and false, so let me explain. The World Bank in 2018 estimated that the value of global corruption is roughly $1.4 Trillion. Africa’s GDP as at 2017, stood at $2.19 Trillion, so the global corruption figures are roughly half of the total value of goods and services produced by the African continent that houses about 1.3 billion people. So let’s look at corruption from a psycho-historical perspective; in other words, let’s try and delve into the historical mindset or thinking of capitalism as a philosophy and capitalists that create systems that unwittingly or otherwise replicate these meta-programs.
A quick look at the start of it all; people have since time immemorial traded with each other, the bulk of which was to cover immediate needs and often to mitigate future shortages. The invention of a highly organised, hierarchical system based on unlimited wants i.e. greed and consumerism is unique and a fairly recent socioeconomic construction.
First, it starts with the Europeans engaging in the largest cash-generating exercise of other countries resources on an incomprehensible scale, also called colonialism. So unfathomable was the grand-scale pillage over 100’s of years, it would restock their corporate and state war-chests forever. So the principle of larceny was established as a systemic feature of the then-nascent capitalism.
Then part of the Industrial Revolution was funded by the stolen labour and lives of millions of slaves across the Caribbean and the Americas. So the principle of outside investors was entrenched as a systemic feature of capitalism.
At around the same time, the American constitution is being debated and drawn up by James Madison and company, the focus of which is the protection of the landed class, the rich and the barons against the “great unwashed.” So the principle of class division was established.
The emancipation of the slaves by Lincoln in 1863 created a class of free/cheap labour of a few million people desperate to survive with no assets and no gainful employment. So the principle of cheap (slave) labour also known as the “minimum wage” was established as a hallmark of capitalism, which had the unintended effect of entrenching class division.
The establishment of the Federal Reserve in America in 1913, an institution unaccountable to anyone but its shareholders, can print billions of dollars with no surety, can loan money to the state or any state-owned enterprise and banks, expecting interest on essentially a chimaera, institutionalised the notion that only the rich and powerful are worthy of not working for their wealth. So the principle of no taxation or very little taxation of the rich was established.
At around the same time, the greatest propaganda tool for both big business and government was created by Edward Bernays in the 1920s, the advertising, marketing and PR, Public Relations industry was born. This juggernaut of deception, manipulation and control would employ the latest available psychological tools to persuade consumers to purchase more than they need. So the principle of systemic greed was further entrenched, next to 1000’s of corporate, banking, financial and commercial laws, statutes and ordinances meant to advantage the rich and powerful in all areas of business endeavours.
The so-called, “reward system” of capitalism which includes lunches, dinners, financial inducements, favours, influence peddling, bonuses, prizes, gifts, deferred compensation and “off-balance-sheet” expenses are all part of an intricate and sophisticated maze of rewards awarded to the right person/s in pursuit of business opportunities for increased profits. So the culture of rewards was entrenched into the system of capitalism, making it easier to bribe potential customers. The notion of business ethics is a gluttonous and laughable oxymoron indeed.
A capitalist based economy arguably enforces theft of a person’s hours because it creates arbitrary systems of remuneration outside of the powerful circles of the rich, the powerful and the influential. For example, a CEO of a large listed corporation is measured and subsequently rewarded by the metric of a growth in equity (the share price) value of the business he runs. It’s therefore common practice for him to buy back the company’s shares to artificially inflate its value. Guess what happens then? He is handsomely rewarded by the shareholders for his astute business acumen.Remind me again how corruption is of necessity bad, and why it is painted as black? I’ll end off with another quotation by Daniel Kahneman, “A reliable way of making people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.”