Is it Corruption if it’s Legal?


potbrainIn the USA, two states voted to legalize marijuana. There’s no serious argument that marijuana improves peoples’ intelligence, or makes them more physically competent, or improves their abilities to perform professional tasks.  Although the impact is physiologically different, like alcohol, people wanted to do it, and they voted to make it legal.

It is a frustrating truth that we all do things that are not necessarily in our best interests of the best interests of our families, communities and groups.

I discuss this in What is Anti-Corruption.

When analyzing corruption issues, it is important to look past the mere fact that something is legal or illegal.  Its important to examine what is being corrupted.

In some countries there is activity that is illegal by statute, but is widely ignored by law enforcement because of the social agreement that the behavior is acceptable.  People have developed an agreement, rightly or wrongly, that something, some behavior is acceptable even though it degrades the ability of society to create a strong and productive future.  It could be marijuana, as has happened in two jurisdictions in the U.S.A., or it may be accepting a bribe to speed the bureaucratic process.  It could be immunity from corruption and other charges for politicians. Or it may be far more serious, like human trafficking.

From an anticorruption point of view – this leads to an ongoing evaluation of behavior against both a legal framework AND the question of whether the behavior is improving the ability of man to take responsibility for himself, his family, his community and future.

Transparency International’s definition of corruption strains when considering the legalization of such behavior.  Further, the fundamental tenets of democracy, and the responsibility of politicians in a republic are similarly tested when the people desire something that weakens the ability of the population to build a thriving future.

Where people choose to legalize behavior that arguably weakens long term power and effectiveness of society, we need more thorough debate and evaluation.

Brian Pinkowski

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