Fidelity bank banner Bayelsa State banner
Bribery, corruption and evolution of pro-social institutions (1)

By News Express on 23/10/2017

Share on facebook Yahoo mail icon Gmail icon Share on Google+

Views: 2,378


How the science of cooperation and cultural evolution will give us new tools in combating corruption. There is nothing natural about democracy. There is nothing natural about living in communities with complete strangers. There is nothing natural about large-scale anonymous cooperation. Yet, daily we buy coffee from the likes of Starbucks with no fear of being poisoned or cheated. I caught a train in London’s underground, packed with people I have never met before and will probably never meet again. If we were commuting chimps in a space that small, it would have been a scene out of the latest Planet of the Apes by the time we reached Holborn station. We’ll return to this mystery in a moment.

There is something very natural about prioritising your family over other people. There is something very natural about helping your friends and others in your social circle. And there is something very natural about returning favours given to you. These are all smaller scales of cooperation that we share with other animals and that are well described by the math of evolutionary biology. The trouble is that these smaller scales of cooperation can undermine the larger-scale cooperation of modern states. Although corruption is often thought of as a falling from grace, a challenge to the normal functioning state – it’s in the etymology of the word – it’s perhaps better understood as the flip side of cooperation. One scale of cooperation, typically the one that’s smaller and easier to sustain, undermines another.

Bottom of form

When a leader gives his daughter a government contract, it is nepotism. But it’s also cooperation at the level of the family, well explained by Inclusive Fitness, undermining cooperation at the level of the state. When a manager gives her friend a job, it is cronyism. But it’s also cooperation at the level of friends, well explained by reciprocal altruism, undermining the meritocracy. Bribery is a cooperative act between two people, and so on. It’s no surprise that family-oriented cultures like India and China are also high on corruption, particularly nepotism. Even in the Western world, it’s no surprise that Australia, a country of mates, might be susceptible to cronyism. Or that breaking down kin networks predicts lower corruption and more successful democracies. Part of the problem is that these smaller scales of cooperation are easier to sustain and explain, than the kind of large-scale anonymous cooperation that the Western world have grown accustomed to.

So, how is it that some states prevent these smaller scales of cooperation from undermining large-scale anonymous cooperation? The typical answer is that more successful nations have better institutions. All that’s required is the right set of rules to make society function. But even on the face of it, this answer seems incomplete. If it were true, Liberia, who borrowed more than its flag from the United States, ought to be much more successful than it is. Instead, these institutions are supported by invisible cultural pillars, without which the institutions would fail. For example, without a belief in rule of law – that the law applies to all and cannot be changed on the whim of the leader – it doesn’t matter what the Constitution or legal code says, no one is listening. Without a long time horizon, decisions are judged on how well they serve our immediate needs making larger-scale projects, like reducing the effects of Climate Change, harder to justify. Similarly, institutions often lack the punitive power to actually punish perpetrators. For example, most people in the US and UK pay their taxes, even though in reality the IRS and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs lack the power to prosecute widespread non-compliance; your probability of getting caught is low.

The tax compliant majority may never discover that they can cheat or how to get away with it, and they may not actively seek this information as long as the probability of getting caught is non-zero, the system seems fair, and it seems as if everyone else is complying. Or, in other words, it’s a combination of norms and institutions. But, it gets tricky! Institutions are themselves hardened or codified norms, and the norms themselves evolve in response to the present environment and due to part-dependence of previous environments, past decisions, and the places migrants come from. Modern groups vary on individualism, and even sexist attitudes based on their ancestors’ farming practices.

The science of cultural evolution describes the evolution of these norms and introduces the possibility of out-of-equilibria behaviour (people behaving in ways that do not benefit them individually) for long enough for institutions to try to stabilise the new equilibria.

How do we begin to understand these processes?

The real world is messy, and before we start running randomised control trials or preparing case studies, it’s useful to model the basic dynamics of cooperation using a simpler form that gets at the core elements of the challenge. One commonly used model is called ‘Public Goods Game.’ The gist of the game is that I give you, and say nine others, $10. Whatever you put into a pool (the public good), I’ll multiply by say 3, but then I’ll divide the money equally, regardless of contribution. This is similar to paying your taxes for public goods that we all benefit from, like roads, clean water, or environmental protections. The dilemma is this: the best move is for everyone to put all their money in the pool. Then they’ll all go home with $30. But it’s in my best interest to put nothing in the pool and let everyone else put their money in. If I put in nothing and they put in $10 each, I’ll go home with almost $40 ($10*9*3people/10 = $37).

What happens when we play this game? Well, if we play it in a weird nation, where pro-social norms tend to be higher, people put about half their money in, but as they gradually realise they can make more by putting in less, contributions dwindle to zero. One way to sustain contributions is to introduce peer punishment: allow people to spend some portion of their money to punish other people. This is similar to the kind of punishment we might see in a small village. I know who you are or at least I know your parents or people you know. If you steal my crops, I’ll punish you myself or ruin your reputation. In the game, if we introduce the possibility of peer punishment, contributions rise again. The problem is that this doesn’t scale well. As the number of people grows, we get second-order free-riding: people prefer to let someone else pay the cost of punishment. When someone cuts a queue, you grumble: someone ought to tell that person off! Someone other than me… And you can also get counter-punishment: revenge for being punished. The best solution seems to be to create a punishment institution. Pick one person as a “leader” and allow them to extract taxes that can be used to punish free-riders. This works really well, and scales up nicely. It’s similar to a functioning police force and judiciary in Weird nations. In fact, the models suggest that the more power you give to the leader, the more cooperation they can sustain. Aha! Problem solved. Not quite. Models like these are very useful for distilling the core of a phenomenon, they can miss things. Recall where we started: smaller-scales of cooperation can undermine the larger-scale.

In a recently published paper, it was shown just how easy it was to break that well-functioning institution. It was done by introducing the possibility of another very simple form of cooperation – you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours – bribery. And then it wanted to show the power of invisible cultural pillars by measuring people’s cultural background and by trying to fix corruption, using common anti-corruption strategies. It wanted to show that these strategies, including transparency, don’t work in all contexts and can even backfire.

We would be continuing this discourse in the next article. For further details call via WhatsApp or SMS.

Source News Express

Posted 23/10/2017 6:30:20 PM

 

Share on facebook Yahoo mail icon Gmail icon Share on Google+


 

CLASSIFIED ADS

 

You may also like...
Assembly urges Al-Makura to reconstruct collapsed bridges

Lagos House passes 2017 budget

IPOB hails boycott of Enugu LG polls, says...

Arms Deal: Dasuki, 4 others docked for N13bn...

Expert clears air on alleged Ebola outbreak in...

Oil producing communities kick against relocation of Maritime...

IPOB attacks MEND

70 per cent of Nigerian prison inmates are...

Breaking News: Boko Haram kidnaps two prominent emirs...

Military dismisses Boko Haram video, says sect’s end...

Army recalls retired soldiers

Nigerian academics ambassador Ademola Oluwaranti wins British excellence...

 

Latest News Oyetola, Omisore, Adeleke, Adeoti, Akinbade in tough contest as Osun elects new Governor Biafra: IPOB delegation returns from United Nations How I was raped by Ex-Gov. Sylva’s Security Adviser — Victim •PLUS: Court details 2019 Polls: Abdulsalami warns against Nigeria’s disintegration Nigeria in sorry state under Buhari — Turaki •Says country doesn’t need President that treats headache, ear infection in London 2019: EFCC launches offensive against election fraud, tracks campaign financing by parties Why Delta State is peaceful — Okowa •Challenges women to contest for elective positions Tears of joy as Gov. Emmanuel overhauls 88-year-old hospital Fuel scarcity looms as NUPENG, PENGASSAN issue strike notice NEMA: 77,460 displaced, 3,544 houses destroyed by floods in 12 states Shittu, Adeosun: Your Presidency stinks, PDP tells Buhari Ex-SUBEB chairman bags 7-year jail for embezzling N95.5m

 

Most Read NUDE PHOTO OF OMOTOLA JALADE-EKEINDE surfaces online (395,500 views) Nigerian female sex addict opens up, says ‘I like it with both men and women’ (376,257 views) Shameless Genevieve Nnaji exposes breasts in public (307,900 views) Finally named: The full list of friends of Nigerian female sex addict who prowled Facebook (250,277 views) OLUMBA OLUMBA OBU (the one who called himself God) IS DEAD (231,863 views) Igbo scholar disgraces Femi Fani-Kayode •Demolishes claims on Igbo/Yoruba history with facts and figures (221,405 views) Breaking News: POPULAR REVEREND CONVERTS TO ISLAM in Kaduna (Nigeria) (199,705 views) OBJ’s son reported dead in Lagos plane crash •Names of more victims emerge (181,320 views) My wasted years in Olumba Olumba Obu’s Evil Brotherhood (165,386 views) THE FINAL DISGRACE: Igbo scholar unleashes more facts about Igbo/Yoruba history, finishes off Femi Fani-Kayode with second article (163,216 views) Lagos plane crash: Journalist releases victims’ names (157,934 views) Gunmen kill ASP, 2 other police officers in vain bid to kidnap Rivers PDP chieftain (146,732 views)

 

Categories Advertorials (3) African Press Organisation (81) Art & Literature (63) Business & Economy (3,617) Business Verdict (52) Columnists (932) Complaints & Requests (94) Enterprise & Opportunities (207) Entertainment (547) Features (652) Global Business Monitor (301) International (2,417) Interview (165) Live Commentary (28) Love Matters (144) News (39,038) Opinion (1,109) Pidgin (11) Politics (6,679) Religion (870) Sports (1,697) Stock Watch (33) AMA & Al Jazeera Global Update

 

CBN banner

Firstmobile banner

 

 

NEWS EXPRESS TV

I am Imo State's New Governor -- Okorocha's son-in-law Uche Nwosu...

 

APO Group Partner

 

 

CLASSIFIED ADS

GOCOP Accredited Member

GOCOP Accredited member

 

 

Africa Media Agency and Al Jazeera

Advertisement