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“They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.”

“They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.  For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. – 2 Peter 2:19

I am not religious, but I find some prophecies appropriately poetic to our times.

False Prophets and Teachers

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell[a] and committed them to chains[b] of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgement; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;[c] and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked(for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials,[d] and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgement,10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

Bold and wilful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgement against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, revelling in their deceptions,[e] while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom,but they themselves are slaves[f] of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

I recently wrote about corruption and guanxi, and I have long considered the theories and definitions of “corruption”, which I thought to share them here.

Nature and Definition of Corruption.

The English word for “corruption” comes from Latin “corruptus”, meaning “breaking altogether.”  Chinese word, “” , meaning “rotten” and “defeat”.  Regardless of the language, corruption implies the “breaking or rotting of a system,” (essentially something that undermines the system).

The controversy is to what degree is this “breaking” considered “corrupt”.  Some scholars have defined it any action that’s legally, ethically, or morally wrong.  But morality is relative, so is ethics, and legal standards change all the time.  So, does that mean that 1 action that was “wrong” and corrupt, may actually become not “wrong” and not “corrupt” at some point in time??  (I will revisit this question later).  And since the “wrong” may be also relative to the system that EXISTS at a time, what about the system?  For if no system is perfect, then are some “corruption” against the system, may actually be GOOD?

Consider this scenario then:

(1) Back in the Slavery Era of US, an anti-slavery sympathizer in the South pays BRIBES to police or ship captains to allow slaves escape to the North.  (This happened quite often).  Was that “bribe” corrupt?  Or necessary?  Or even good?  Is it good because “slavery” itself was a “bad” system?

(2) Colorado now passed law to legalize marijuana, but it’s still illegal under Federal Law.  Federal law enforcement are looking the other way and not enforcing the law in Colorado.  Is that “corruption”?  (with the incentive to avoid lawsuits, avoid taking away a lucrative state revenue).

(3) When America was just British Colony, under heavy British taxes, were any smuggling considered “corruption”?  If so, then was the American Revolution a war based upon a “corruption” against the British system??

*Which brings us back to the original quote of the title, ““They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.” 

Is “FREEDOM” ultimately a corruption against whatever system that exists?  Isn’t the goal of “freedom” to ultimately “corrupt” /undermine whatever system that restricts such “freedoms”?

If a King/Emperor imposed a system of absolute rule, it has its own Rule of Law.  Anything (freedom) that comes to disrupt/corrupt that system of rule of laws, then is by definition “corruption” against the system.

* Systems evolve.  Corruption is a part of that evolution.  It is like decay or death.  Existing systems decay, grow old, and die or evolve.  Thus, sometimes, “corruption” may be necessary or even beneficial.

Why?  A system may be too old or too inefficient to deal with new situations, new technologies, new social economic conditions.  When a system cannot adequately deal with existing conditions, or if alternative incentives are high enough, participants begin to make up and try out new processes, new ways, new rules to compensate for the inefficiencies.  (This is part of Game Theory).

Consider Scenario (2) above, for example, when a new state law comes into effect in Colorado that contradicts the Federal law, it may be expedient and more efficient for the Federal law enforcement to simply ignore the Federal law, rather than strictly enforcing it.  So a new unofficial rule is made, the Federal law banning marijuana is not to be strictly enforced in Colorado.  This does undermine the Federal law.  And because it undermines it, other states are also more incentivized to pass similar laws as Colorado.  This is a “corruption” evolution process at work.  Over time, we may indeed see the Federal law overturned /repealed because sufficient number of states have changed their laws, which corrupts the existing system.  Alternatively, we may see Federal government finally crack down uniformly across all states, leading to a legal confrontation, like an “anti-corruption drive”.  Ultimately, this “corruption” may actually be beneficial to the overall system.  Afterall, if legalized marijuana has no significant overall negative effects to many states, then it’s efficient to corrupt the old laws and change it to new laws.

(4) many US states are considering early releases of prisoners, because they are running out of prison spaces, and prisons are getting too expensive.  Some would argue that this is “corrupt”, that laws are not being uniformly enforced.  The point is, it is “corruption”, because rules are being changed ad hoc fashion, without the rules ACTUALLY being changed in the political system.  A law or a court may still say someone will get prison term of 10 years, but in reality, that person may get out much earlier, perhaps for no good apparent reasons.

On the reverse side, some people are also getting more harsher punishment, getting additional prison terms for merely UNABLE to afford “fees”.  http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/12/28/local-courts-reviving-debtors-prison-for-overdue-fines-fees/  There are incentives for doing both, which seemingly contradict each other.  Letting some go early, because running out of costly prison space, but locking some others longer, because of overdue fees (which overcrowds the prison and drives prison costs up).

Why?  There are competing and contradictory solutions to the same problems of the existing system, because different groups are trying out different new rules.


So, what is “corruption”?

It’s the participants “gaming” the system (legally or illegally) for their own incentives, even without the explicit intent to undermine the system, regardless of whether the actions are ultimately beneficial (because we can’t possibly know the effects until many years later).

“Freedom” cries are often “corruptions”, because it does undermine the existing system of law.  (And we also don’t know what the effects will be, until many years later).

“They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.” 

It is no empty warning, for what is “corruption”, but to practice chaos unrestrained by rules?  If you bribe someone, you are trying to get more than what you normally could under the rules of a system.  If you practice “corruption”, you are trying to get more “freedom” to do what you want, damn the system.  You may call it “freedom advocacy”, but you are still a slave to “corruption”.  (As St. Peter said).  Yet, I’m not condemning “corruption” universally.  For the system itself may be “corrupt”.  If slaves Bribing people to get freedom is “corruption”, then “slavery” itself is also “corruption”, because it denies basic freedom to some while reserving it for others.  But 2 wrongs don’t make a “right”, 2 corruptions do not make non-corruption.  Corruption begets more “corruption”.  This is the nature of Evolution of political legal systems.  Only time can tell, which “corruption” was ultimately more beneficial and more justifiable.


So, if there is a lesson here, it is as St. Peter implied, Promises of “freedom” is a chain of Corruption.  That nothing is really as promised or called.

God may have created Angels, it doesn’t mean he won’t strike them down.

By same notion, God may have given some blessings to “democracies”, it doesn’t mean that it would last forever.

Within the seeds of “freedom” is the chain of Corruption.  It only matters whether it evolves for the better or for the worse, not what it is called.

What’s IMPORTANT is not the broad and irrational assumption by some that all “corruptions” are bad, nor that one can somehow measure the bad “corruption” while ignoring the “corruptions” that we have come to accept and tolerate.

(5) Is cutting into lines a form of “corruption”?  Some may say so.  It’s so bad in some places, that State of Washington made cutting lines for ferries a crime (http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2010/mar/23/ferries-cut-in-line-get-a-fine/#axzz35qWypOu1).  Yet other places tolerate them.

How about Jaywalking?  Is that a form of corruption?  Maybe by the same logic as cutting lines.  Jaywalking is a crime in most countries, but often ignored and even tolerated to some degree.

So, how can any one really claim to rationally measure “corruption”, when obviously some corruptions are simply ignored or tolerated as a way of life?  Political lobbying for example, is corrupt, and yet it is legalized in US, and thus completely ignored in any measurement of corruption, even when the public acknowledges it as corrupt.

The excuse for some corruption is that they are “transparent”, meaning done in broad daylight, visible.  But that’s like saying a crime is not a crime if it is done in plain sight.  Which is quite ridiculous.

No.  Numbers don’t matter at all.

What’s IMPORTANT is to understand the nature of various “corruptions” and the nature of their causation and their impacts.  If there is incentive for the corruption, we need to understand what the incentives are, and whether there is a need to change the existing system to deal with new situations, to make the system more efficient.  If the incentive is deemed too risky, the corruption needs to be curbed.

All in all, Corruptions are means of experimenting with new evolution of political economic social processes.

(6) Once, there was a man who was tasked to design a school campus.  He laid a massive lawn around all of the buildings, but did not lay down any paths.  People asked him why he didn’t finish the job.  He replied, he was waiting for people to tread the often used paths out on the lawn, and then he would know where to lay down the concrete pathways on the lawn.  In the absence of the paths, people resort to making their paths.  This is a way to help the system mark out new paths of the institution.  In this sense, “corruption” is often useful.

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  1. United Chinese Diaspora
    June 28th, 2014 at 06:46 | #1

    The most notorious corruption case in the Bible is the betrayal of Jesus by Judas for 30 silver coins.

    From the beginning of time, corruption was part of being human when Adam took a bite of the apple.(Genesis)

    And henceforth, men have been paying for it ever since by way of self destruction with wars and disease and natural disasters.

    Jesus died to save us and wash away our sins with his blood. But did Jesus shed his blood in vain when we look at the genocidal tolls of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, The Rape of Nanking, Korea, Vietnam, and more recently, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Pakistan, etc.

    “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

    In Exodus, after Moses lead the children of Israel out of slavery and at the bottom of Mount Sinai, in less than 40 days, the Jews have forgotten God and decided to return “to its own vomit and wallow in the mire” and worship the golden calf. The Jews have made a conscious effort to avoid the repeat of this prophecy. Do you know that the Canaan dog, the native Israeli dog from biblical times is the only canine specie in the world that does not regurgitate its food and why Jews don’t touch pork.

    WWI was supposed to be the war that ends all wars. Today with pivot to Asia and the resultant WWIII, we now know how fickle that proclamation was.

    “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

    Are we dogs and sows?

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