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Yesterday's blog about China was more fun than I expected. Just to be clear, I prefer the American system of government. But as regular readers know, I like to defend the opposite views from whatever I hold. It's a good test.

Many of you pointed out the problem of corruption in China. One source says it might amount to $86 billion per year, or 10 percent of government spending.

http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=19628&prog=zch


Therefore the Democratic/Republic form of government is better than Chinese communism, right?

I would argue that corruption is independent of the form of government. Corruption is just as much a crime in China as it is in the U.S. The difference is the effectiveness of enforcement. If you look at America early in this century, corruption was rampant, probably on the level of China today, yet our system of government was the same as now.

Consider that our system of government took more than 200 years to beat corruption down to its current level. China's political system is relatively new and their country is relatively huge. The only relevant question is whether corruption in China is trending better or worse. And I don't know the answer to that. Do you?

You can't measure trends in corruption by dollar amount. If corruption stays at a constant rate, the dollar amount would be growing. So someone Google me up a good statistic on Chinese corruption trends.

 
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+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 14, 2009
Let's have a small but effective experiment in democracy.

Let's say that if we encounter a condescending, flaming idiot posting on this web site, and that flaming idiot gets 12 "thumbs-down votes" on one of his inane comments, then we will all agree that that induvidual will be considered to be voted OFF the Island -- and maybe, if we are lucky, the web site administrator will block his/her IP address.

If you agree that this would be a great experiment in American democracy ... well, don't forget to vote ... early and often.

Webster
 
 
Apr 14, 2009
Scott, your reasoning is, as usual, facile and flawed. And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

You, at your base, are an academic. Academics tend to look at things two-dimensionally, in a vacuum, without looking at other facts that may impact their decisions about certain subjects. You are one who reasons inductively; that is, you arrive at a conclusion based on a set of observations, rather than deductively, where one builds conclusions based on putting together facts. Inductive reasoning cannot, in itself, be a valid form of proof. That fact of logic either eludes you or you completely ignore it.

Those who reason inductively start with a premise (although they will rarely state it up front), and then toss out ideas that may or may not be in themselves valid, to "prove" their premise. Take today's post, for example. You have started from the premise that the Chinese government is really just fine, or will be given enough time to root out the only Scott-decided proof of good government versus bad: the level of corruption. Then, you state that they'll get better at that given time, and challenge anyone else to prove you wrong (proving a negative). Ta-da! Q.E.D, Adams style.

Here's my inductive proof that you're full of bull: Scott Adams believes the government of China is better than the US. Scott Adams continues to live in the US rather than China. Therefore, Scott Adams is full of bull. Ta-da! At the very least, it's as valid as your non-proof.

I know you just like to stir the pot and throw out controversial ideas, to suck the sheeple into focusing on countering your heuristics-presented-as-facts rather than on your argument itself. I'd like to point out that, while it's a fun exercise when you do it, the problem is that people get sucked into believing real things that affect their life and liberty this way. They're presented with an inductively-reasoned argument by government and swallow it. Then, they allow government to use it as a rationalization to force others to do what they want them to. For example, what's the definition of fair? To the government, it's unfair that 50% of wage earners pay virtually no income taxes while 1% of wage earners pay 40% of them. Why is it unfair? Because the 1% isn't paying enough. Try to wrap your mind around THAT little bit of illogic.

Folks, watch how Scott builds his arguments. Then apply them to the way our government is trying to trick you into believing that building up trillions in debt won't really hurt you in the long run. If you just think about it a little, then I hope you'll be at one of the tax day tea parties tomorrow (I'll be in the Pleasanton one - how about you, Scott?). Otherwise, the ultimate difference between the Chinese government and ours will be . . . academic.

 
 
Apr 14, 2009
If we had a crystal ball, and could accurately measure it, the % value of GDP lost to corruption would be a good measure.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 14, 2009
On the relative merits of American Democracy ....

The history of democratic forms of government dates back thousands of years. Neither the American (republican) form nor the earlier British (parliamentary) forms are unique. In North America, many of the indigenous peoples (tribal groups) practised a sophisticated form of democratic government long before the arrival and cultural influence of western Europeans.

On free speech. that has been around for as long as human beings have been using their tongues for something other than licking things. The opportunity to speak freely is the natural condition. The absence of free speech interrupts the natural condition and its suppression is always associated with need to maintain political power (by a dictator, for instance) for the purpose of suppressing dissenting points of view.

Is the USA form of democracy an effective democratic form? Arguably so. But so are other variations on the form. All are imperfectly executed ... which explains the tedious and ongoing need for political commentators and contrarian wankers like Lou Dobbs.

Webster
 
 
Apr 14, 2009
I thought I knew a story about China's Minister for Quality being executed because of exports of dud drugs - a quick check and it seems he was the Drug Regulator, unless there were a few of them up against the wall.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18911849/
Anyone remember what happened to the Union Carbide Corporation bosses over Bhopal? Not much I think.
 
 
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 13, 2009
Political Corruption: An Cultural Anthropologist's perspective ....

In the good old days, when men were men and the original Republicans spoke Latin, much of what is described under this topic as "political corruption" would be thought of as "Quid pro quo" ... meaning "something for something" or " a favour for a favour".

In some cultures, China and Mexico being handy examples, this concept is deeply imbedded in the culture. The practice does not carry the same "moral stigma" as in other cultures.

In those cultures where "quid pro quo" is not deemed to be acceptable, the practice is known as "influence peddling" or "abuse of (positional) power". The deposed Governor of Illinois is a good example of an induhvidual who considers "quid pro quo" to be a normal and natural practice in American politics -- and that is the essence of feeble defence.

In other words, the definition of corrupt is sensitively dependent on initial conditions ... including cultural norms.

Webster
 
 
Apr 13, 2009
I think that China has a high level of low-level corruption, while we have a low level of high-level corruption.

If that statement is confusing. let me obscure it more with some examples:

From reading the replies, China's corruption seems to be on the order of "Hi there. I'm a petty bureaucrat. Please bribe me so that I will allow you to function." This is what I'm calling "low-level" corruption. Anyone can play this game, and it's blatant and obvious.

In contrast, the US has fairly sophisticated, or "high-level" corruption. They are on the order of, "Hi, I'm a lobbyist. Permit me to explain to you why it's in your best interest to support this bill". There's no seeking nor offering of bribes, no quid pro quo for a campaign contribution. Just "access".

Or another high-level corruption: "Hi, I'm a Security Analyst. My job is to tell the President what I think he wants to hear. He never asked me to whitewash anything; there's no conspiracy. Not even a 'wink-wink-nudge-nudge-saynomore-saynomore'. But here is why we HAVE to do X."

Or even simpler, "Hi, I'm Governor Rod Blagojevich......"


So, Is High x Low > Low x High ? Beats me.

 
 
Apr 13, 2009
The important question is, Why do the former British colonies and western Europe today have such low levels of corruption compared to everyplace else in the world?
 
 
Apr 13, 2009
[ferrangomis: Another good one is with doctors, in public hospitals they are underpaid, and there is no appointment system in place, so I you want to see the doctor you have to go there, pick a number and wait, most likely 3-5hours]

What you described here is roughly what we have here in the U.S with respect to emergency rooms and urgent (that's a misnomer if there ever was one) care centers. 3-5 hours does not seem like a huge amount of time compared to some of the times I've taken one of my kids in for treatment at 2:00 am because they were having trouble breathing and not getting out of the urgent care center until noon. Sure - we were triaged quickly. We may have even been sent back to a room in an hour (sometimes - but not the norm - usually it is more like the 3-5 hour window). And I live in a fairly affluent location in the country, so I hope we don't go to the bribe the doctor system. In my humble opinion, U.S. doctors ARE very well paid so whatever pittance I could come up with would probably be a laugher to them.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 13, 2009
Where ever officials are not transparent, when they are involved with massive amounts of exchangeable value, you will see massive amounts of fraud.

So why has every form of communism we have seen not had free press to provide the transparency when it is needed? I think it comes down to lack of trust in humanity.

1. The boss wants the stupid illiterate man to have a decent living. So the government controls all things economical.
2. Because the common man is stupid and illiterate, (by the boss's definition) ideas that might make him upset and ultimately ruin the common man's life need to be suppressed.
3. No free press.
4. Corruption is rampant.
5. A layer of bureaucracy is put into place to oversee the officials with power.
a. This layer of bureaucracy is under funded - so corruption remains rampant.
b. or the layer of bureaucracy becomes the focal point of the corruption.

So - because the boss things the common man is stupid, corruption is rampant.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 13, 2009
@WATYF

Describing our host's opinion (an opinion that you are unable to refute with evidence to the contrary) as "colossally stupid" is colossally arrogant on your part ... not to mention colossally rude.

If Scott Adams was hosting this discussion in his living room, would you, as a guest, walk up to him, look him in the eye, and describe his point of view as stupid?

Webster
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 13, 2009
I think corruption in China is Ri Xing.
 
 
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 12, 2009
ACCORDING TO MR. GU ....

As most people know, George Zhibin Gu is an expert induhvidual on the subject on Chinese political corruption. According to a brief web review of his recent book, which nobody outside of his extended family will purchase, George pinpoints the root cause of rampant political corruption in China as follows:

"Unlimited bureaucratic power, which is based on cults and terror, is the root-cause of this ongoing China's corruption. And as long as this bureaucratic power remains in place, corruption can hardly be contained in any practical way."

So there you have it. Mr. Gu has pinpointed the answer for us. China is corrupt because the government bureaucracy (White Collar Workers) is infested with cultists (Democrats) and terrorists (Republicans) with unlimited bureaucratic power.

On trending, abuse of power is always on the rise when somebody cares enough to measure it.

Webster



 
 
Apr 12, 2009
it all depends of what corruption is counted for, lobbying would probably be counted as corruption in China, founding a politician's campaign too, and stock options to CEOs since they push them to publish short term positive results (true or false) could also be considered as corruption in the Chinese system. I do not know for sure but I know we often compare other systems with benchmarks issued from our own, not necessarily the best way. 3% going in jail seems not that much but yet no one linked to the spending in or related to Iraq either saw the steel bars. Did they?
 
 
Apr 12, 2009
A good idea is worth a thousand examples.

Here is the root of corruption: Centralized power. When you centralize power, by definition you put enormous control in few hands. The fewer hands that have power the harder it is to watch what they are doing. And people, when not being watched, tend to cheat. And secret police are controlled by the powerful, so they can't help stop the cheats.

The solution is information. The more likely it is for your cheating to be exposed, the less likely it is that you will cheat There will always be someone who will try, but the human brain is a sophisticated machine well versed in risk / reward analysis and most people choose self preservation over prison / execution. It's Darwin people.

Access to information will also increase your effectiveness at work, and you will make more money and increase your company's profits...and as spillover increase your nation's GDP.

Can anyone guess where this is heading?

THE INTERNET

It increases access to information, and the more pervasive it becomes the more effective businesses will be. In China, massive attempts are made to control the internet. For instance, The Great Firewall (ask the Chinese how well their last Great Wall worked, hee hee hee).

As a post authoritarian regime, power is decentralizing in China. If it continues then freedom of information will continue to expand, and corruption will decrease. If it does not then corruption will strangle their productivity .

Either way, centralized power is on the downswing in human history.

http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 12, 2009
I was just reading some news from the aptly named "Philippine Headline News". Here is a quote from an article by Chief Editor Sol Jose Vanzi about the corrupt state of the Philippines:

"...the grim reality of our condition that we read about every day in our own newspapers…being at the top of the list of most corrupt nations and just last week, among the nations with the dubious distinction of being named and shamed by the G20 for sheltering money launderers and tax evaders."

Corruption? Forget China. Try the Philippine Islands (PI) instead.

Before anyone asks, "How would you know?", I am married to a Filipina, have visited the PI repeatedly, had dealings with government officials, yada, yada, yada.

The PI is corrupt. No doubt about it. However, I find it refreshing because the Filipinos wear their corruption on their sleeves. They make no bones about it, and don't try to hide it. Here are several examples:

1. Vote buying. In the PI, candidates buy votes. They go out among the populace and hand out Pesos for votes. Whoever hands out the most cash, gets the most votes. I know this because my mother-in-law is one who did. This means that only the wealthy get elected to office. (People run for political office in the PI not to serve -- but to get rich.)

2. Kill your opponent. Seriously, folks, this happens. My wife told me that every year at least 200 candidates across the PI are killed by their opponents. Well, if you can't beat them at vote buying, just have them bumped off.

3. Beauracracy. I love the PI government. If it doesn't move fast enough, pay it. Don't want to wait 2 months for an application? A few Pesos will make it go faster. Have a shipment you need to get through Customs with no interference? Pesos work wonders. Getting married and don't want to deal with the PI red tape and religious classes? Pay off the clerk at city hall. You'll be finished in a day. I know. I did it. Money talks in a loud and clear voice in the PI.

4. Prices. They are not fixed by a long shot. Try bargaining. Just don't be a Westerner, though. If you're white and Western, your price just jumped about 100%. My wife tells me when we go to the markets in the PI, "Stay away from me. You make the prices go up!" A Filipino may pay 100 Pesos for an item. The same item will cost A Westerner 1000 Pesos. Taxis? Same. A 200 Peso trip for a Filipino will cost you about 1200 Pesos.

5. Ninoy Intl Airport. You get to pay a tax to leave the country. Every time. Every trip. The tax is roughly 1500 Pesos, unless you forget you have to pay, and you go to get cash. Only, when you return, the price has somehow jumped to 2000 Pesos. Or more.

6. The rich. There are very wealthy people in the PI -- mostly politicians. And they make sure they stay rich and on top. In the PI, the rich sue the poor. Yep. In the US, it's the poor who sue the rich, usually for stupid things like carrying a fridge on your back because the instructions didn't state not to. In the PI, the rich sue the poor to keep them down. The rich know they will probably never get paid, but, if the poor guy they sue ever gets money, he won't keep it for long.

These are just a few small examples. Go to the PI and experience it for yourself. Personally, I find it refreshing when a politician is openly corrupt, and isn't a hypocrite doing back-alley deals in the Cloak Room on Capitol Hill.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 12, 2009
I feel we tend to get lost in these overly complex arguments about one government idea vs. another and lose all hope of any clarity. I hope this won't offend anyone, it isn't aimed at any one person, so I don't see how it can, but I think 'we', humans, never look to where the root of the problem is. The same thing is happening now with the financial crisis.

It seems obvious to me that humanity is responsible for all this. The human brain has created politics and the political system. That corruption is inherent in any political system just points back to the human brain being corrupt. Many human beings, not all, have a problem with being honest with themselves and others. That we view the violence of competition as normal is 'our' problem. And these endless arguments about how to fix government or a system is just further evidence of how confused the human brain is.

Maybe one day humanity will have the courage to take responsibility for its actions and look to the real source of our problems.
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 11, 2009
If I was the board of a country-company, then I would put the following 3 KPIs on the CEO-president: average healthy lifespan, average level of happiness and a measure of the resilience of these things to change/external forcing. Happiness as I understand it from all the latest research neatly covers things like freedom to manage one's own destiny, fulfil one's own potential etc.

So then we wouldn't need to worry about this talk of corruption or human rights or more regulation - just how well were these KPIs being met.
 
 
Apr 11, 2009
U sound more and more like thinking people without principles in developing/degenerating countries.

More Enforcement?
More Regulation?

"More" is not a policy. What comes after the "More" is your principle only if you wish to expand its implications.
In your Case "Enforcement", "Regulation". That's what you think is missing.? That's what made America what it is?

And you are asking for statistics? They give a sense of relief to people who cant cope with thinking about principles some immediate conclusion about their present miseries. and they let out a sigh!!...and say " Ah! That really tickles my brain..." Now you know WHY you will be a looted in this country but will still SMILE.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 11, 2009
The government is spending eight trillion dollars to bail out failing banks against the overwhelming will of the people, and you think corruption isn't that big a problem compared to China today or America in the past?

Frankly, I miss Boss Tweed and his 'honest graft.'
 
 
 
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