Monday, November 30, 2009

Family as Corruption Cure


Family as Cure to Corruption in High Places


By John Taylor; 2009 Nov 30, Qawl 09, 166 BE



The most frequently raised objection to world government is that it would be in danger of becoming tyrannical or corrupt. For centuries opponents of world federation have successfully argued that the higher we go in human governance the more prone it is to over-centralization, and the harder corruption and tyranny would be to remove. Undeniably, this is a frightening prospect. If the members of a world government were as corruptible as national governments already are, we would have no escape or appeal to a higher authority. Under a planetary tyranny there would be nowhere to go into exile but into space, and in space nobody can hear you scream.


Some advocates of a democratic world government, such as Jim Stark in "Rescue Plan for Planet Earth, suggest a drastic cure to skulduggery by world leaders. Stark proposes that every politician in a democratically elected world government should be subjected to video surveillance twenty-four hours a day. Everywhere they go, from the bathroom to the bedroom, should be recorded and fed live onto an open Internet broadcast channel. That way, anybody in the world who chooses to do so could look in on what they are up to right now, or see a summary of everything they did or said during the past twenty-four hours. Stark argues that since security cameras are already recording our every move in public places, why make an exception for all-too-corruptible politicians?


Although Stark paints this as a justified protective measure that eliminates all privacy of elected leaders for the greater good, it is useful to recall that such removal of privacy was originally conceived as a punishment for criminals. Jeremy Bentham, in an age before surveillance videos, proposed that all criminals be caged in glass boxes in public places so that their every move would similarly be subject to constant observation.


That is not to say that I would rule out round-the-clock surveillance of leaders completely. However, it should be a last resort taken only if corruption proves to be a persistent, intractable problem, and all other countermeasures have failed.


The reasons for avoiding a culture of surveillance are compelling. For one thing, the greater part of the role of any leader is to be an example and an educator. In order for government to function smoothly, there needs to be a sacred, unspoken bond of trust between the public and the public servant. Any measure against corruption that degrades this bond is liable to spread more corruption and distrust than it eliminates.


This is so not only for world leaders but all leaders, including those on the local and familial level. They must see themselves as teachers of all humankind. And, as any tutor will tell you, in order to teach efficiently one must on the one hand build a close bond of respect and trust, but on the other hand avoid too much intimacy. Either extreme degrades the learning process by allowing students to influence teachers or to see them too closely and critically.


I have no doubt that John Amos Comenius, who was a professional educator, would weigh in against such paranoid counter-measures. He would have pointed out that for one thing corruption is not just an individual condition, it is systemic and institutional. If families are weak, institutions on every other level are undermined too. Comenius's comprehensive reform program starts with well-ordered households that in turn would raise the bar for their members.



"Finally all will be well in city, state and kingdom if all is well at home and individual families are as well-ordered as I recommended ... Since this depends on the wise self-control of individual people, all magistrates will be vigilant to see that individuals promote the safety and peace of the state by leading pious, righteous, and sober lives." (Panorthosia, Ch. 24, para 1, p. 111)



The job of legislators and judges, then, is to support the family. A strong, loving household is in the best position to keep its members in line. The goal of the legal system is to raise the standard of virtue at home, and this in turn will improve the quality of leaders that emerge from it. A security camera invites outside scrutiny, but it also loosens a leader's hold on the loyalty and sincerity of the family that got him or her there in the first place. This tie is sacred, because the family remains long after all memory of any posting or office a leader attains to has faded. Indeed it is the permanent quality of the family that makes it a far more effective check on the morals of leaders than any number of security cameras.


We are used to hiring individuals for job postings today. Worse, once they are hired we expect workers to sacrifice family time for career. That is why I think that in future the reverse will be the case. Instead of just individuals, entire households will be hired as working units for most jobs, especially leadership posts. The family business is already common in agriculture and shopkeeping, but it needs to be extended to politics, since being hired as an institution would make it even more in the interest of every family member to expunge the slightest hint of corruption before it can defeat all their aspirations to honour and prosperity.


In a Cosmopolitan order not only the judiciary but the entire resources of the community, including physical infrastructure, would be devoted to the support of individuals, entrepreneurs and families. Most importantly, science and education would be devoted completely to advising and informing families as institutions. Comenius wrote:


"Nevertheless great magnates (who have many heavy responsibilities) are allowed to have assistants who co-operate with them in drawing up their policies and putting them into action, as a safeguard against error and its ill-effects, just as our mind, which rules its own body like a queen, is provided with a guard of senses, such as sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch." (Panorthosia, Ch. 24, p. 110)


If our leaders were embedded in family units that, like Comenius's "great magnate," are supported by wise advisers, they would be all but immune to corruption. Family and household leadership would constitute a far more dependable "safeguard against error" than any number of twenty-four-hour-a-day surveillance cameras could ever provide.



No comments: