We’ve all heard stories in the news about corrupt high standing officials that have received bribes, bribed others, and had dealings with questionable women. But what does corruption tell us? Let’s examine what we can learn from corruption using another good ole American pastime shall we? Baseball.
First, do we even care about corruption in North America? I mean sure, we hear about it here and there, sometimes the reaches of it might come frighteningly close to us, but in general on large time scales it may seem as if our lives are not greatly affected by corruption. But are we just North America anymore? Thing is, we’re not. Canada just entered a new dairy and meat trade agreement with the European Union, our pipeline dealings with the United States, and the climax of critical consumerism all point to a homogenous exchange of finances between us and the world. One trillion dollars, according to the World Bank Institute, are the bribes paid in one fiscal year, and those are just the ones that were caught.
Corruption is defined as the “misuse of public office for private gain”, in other words, tax dollars= why Rob Ford was caught so late in the game. So I hope you caught that the right answer is yes, we should care about corruption.
But back to the baseball metaphors, so when do we play baseball? When it’s baseball season of course. So when do we care most about corruption, elections. Let’s start with the three bases; municipal, provincial and federal, rounded by politicians usually in that order, and available to steel if the occasion is right. Findings by Lee and Guven (2013) cite that the higher your political orientation the less likely you are to offer and accept bribes. When you’re already deep into the game, there’s no point in steeling a base and potentially losing it all. This might bring you some relief at federal elections, but might make it harder for you to cast a ballot at municipal ones. Don’t lose faith, corruption has been found to strongly be linked to risk taking behavior. So if a candidate seems risky, impulsive or confrontational, you may be motivated to dig deeper into their platform just to be sure before casting your ballot.
Corruption, also like baseball can be explained by a delicate melding of mathematics and culture. You might be raising your brows in query; however recent studies have shown that just like other human past times corruption is not immune to the influences of gender and cultural norms. For example, did you know that rich men are more likely to offer bribes, while rich women are more likely to be bribed? Why is that? Is life a big game made up of pitchers and catchers? Female politicians always carry a heavy burden because in western culture there are still stigmas against females in politics, does this finding comfort of caution you? Are women more likely to accept bribes to carry out the motives of others, or are they less likely to bribe and gain their ground fairly instead. Only you as the voter have the power and the perspective.
However, in general females are less susceptible to corruption than males, studies have shown a trend that women are more likely to condemn taking bribes than men. This also has a cultural link. North America is characterized as a masculine society, in that we promote our males to be ambitious, competitive and above all successful. This pressure encourages risk behavior by threatening a person’s ‘masculine identity’. Questioning an official’s political motivations, his marriage or his expenditures are all ways that opponents seek to undermine a candidates influence over voters. Nothing wreaks more of political rough housing than being accused of batting for the other team either.
Also theorized by Lee and Guven (2013), the higher the reward for engaging in acts of corruption the more likely you are to participate in it and dismiss the consequences, such as being caught or going to prison. Furthermore if you have strong feelings against bribery and are offered a bribe, you are more likely to offer one in the future than someone who has never been approached about bribery at all (Lee & Guven, 2013).
The problem with corruption is that even when it happens, people aren’t always caught and when they are the consequences don’t always match the crime. I mean sure we have umpires like the Senate that try to be impartial, but even then the time lag between crime and consequence is so far apart. So we need all the tips and tricks we can muster to help us figure out which box to check on our ballots before we strike out and land ourselves a benchwarmer playing the big game.
Using this information we as general citizens are able to develop extra insight into potential political candidates and consider our precious votes accordingly. So the next time we approach baseball season, get your tickets early. Watch a few debates; give yourself the time to read multiple papers perspectives on each candidate, instead of creeping Facebook creep party websites. We’re approaching a time when critical decisions about the future of our resources and economy are having more and more impact, and the science of economic psychology is becoming more and more relevant. Yes, that does mean an increase in effort on your part but do you really want to give up your small piece of the political pie? Because as the saying goes, if there’s grass on the field, play ball!
Lee, W.-S., & Guven, C. (2013). Engaging in corruption: The influence of cultural values and contagion effects at the microlevel. Journal of Economic Psychology, 39, 287–300. doi:10.1016/j.joep.2013.09.006