Jump to content
Seriously No Politics ×

The Moral Hazard of Institutions and What We Can Do


Recommended Posts

I found an example of the title subject in another thread.

In it there is an argument that can be restated as, "If I do my part in a group effort and others after me don't, that's not my concern."

The argument was made in reference to tithing, and in this case tithing is collected by a church because it is considered a commandment and the church is considered to represent the Lord. And therefore, as the argument goes, I tithe to the church to obey the commandment and I must consider the act as me giving to the Lord, therefore I must not question or criticise what the church does with it because that would essentially be questioning or criticising God. And if people who represent the church abuse the tithe we've given, they are accountable and we're not because in our eyes we gave it to God.

This part here, where wealth changes hands and one person is absolutely absolved while the other person could be completely corrupt is almost like a magic trick. Realistically though it's like money laundering, but in reverse. But however you want to compare it, the act of creating an intentional blind between yourself as contributor and the institution as receiver is incredibly risky. Without accountability and transparency, this type of intentional self-absolution is a serious moral hazard.

Thinking more universally and beyond tithing and churches, this is arguably the most dangerous of individual human behaviors. Why? Because human beings as social creatures are the most powerful and effective when they collaborate. We human beings collectively create machines--social, political, literal machines--so powerful that no one individual can hinder or fight against. Institutions can become an individual's greatest enemy or greatest ally.

Institutions can harness good or evil. They most likely do some of both. Human morality must not neglect the problem of institutional accountability. It should be the highest priority whenever an institution is created. 

With this in mind, humans have been wrestling with this concept throughout history and the struggle isn't over and as long as people are coming together to create, it never will be. 

There is a sentiment of resignation in the face of this responsibility we have. I think that the common American fantasy of bugging out to a frontier and living off the grid is an extreme example. Another example of resigning to the overwhelming task of institutional morality is more common, and that's passivity. 

And even if we don't want to be passive, it's much harder to be good sentinels or stewards of our institutions if we are already falling behind in other tasks. Illness, poverty, caring for others can make anything outside of our immediate spheres seem irrelevant. And yet, ironically, it is human institutional power that is one of the greatest enemies of illness and poverty and the greatest allies to us when we are trying to care for others. 

We have to be invested to keep our institutions moral.

 

 

Link to comment

What you are referring to is known as the "free rider problem," and as you state, has been a problem since man ceased to live in small bands in which everyone was known to everyone else.  In a society made up of largely anonymous individuals, how do those individuals know that everyone is pulling their weight?  Any student who has ever worked in a group project knows the feeling.  In a field known as the cognitive science of religion, some scholars have suggested that one evolutionary solution to the free rider problem is the idea of a "big god" that watches everyone, rewards the good and punishes the bad, either in this life or the next.  One argument is that the origin of an afterlife of punishment arose as a solution to the free rider problem.  Two works that deal with this subject are God is Watching You by Dominic Johnson and Big Gods How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict.  There has been much debate over the theses proposed in these works, so I'm not saying that they have all the answers, but they do put forward interesting theses.  I realize that the naturalistic approach to religion taken by most researchers in the CSR will be anathema to traditional believers, but it is an interesting way to look at the notion of an afterlife punishment.

Link to comment
19 minutes ago, Steve Thompson said:

What you are referring to is known as the "free rider problem," and as you state, has been a problem since man ceased to live in small bands in which everyone was known to everyone else.  In a society made up of largely anonymous individuals, how do those individuals know that everyone is pulling their weight?  Any student who has ever worked in a group project knows the feeling.  In a field known as the cognitive science of religion, some scholars have suggested that one evolutionary solution to the free rider problem is the idea of a "big god" that watches everyone, rewards the good and punishes the bad, either in this life or the next.  One argument is that the origin of an afterlife of punishment arose as a solution to the free rider problem.  Two works that deal with this subject are God is Watching You by Dominic Johnson and Big Gods How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict.  There has been much debate over the theses proposed in these works, so I'm not saying that they have all the answers, but they do put forward interesting theses.  I realize that the naturalistic approach to religion taken by most researchers in the CSR will be anathema to traditional believers, but it is an interesting way to look at the notion of an afterlife punishment.

It's not just a free rider problem, it is about the management of the institution itself. 

It looks like your conflating "free rider" with the institutional problem at the individual level where people absolve themselves of responsibility to keep the institution accountable.

People create institution and as you say sometimes it is to manage people but people have to manage the institutions. Ideally the institution including it's participants will all be part of managing the institution.

If an institution is not transparent and accountable it is more likely to become an ungoverned organism that works counter to the intent of the humans who contribute to it 

 

 

Link to comment

If one removes God from the equation, I can understand why something like this might be a concern.  Once that is done, it makes the concern that, "Well, the organization and its powers that be must be accountable to someone, and if higher up in the 'chain of command,' so to speak, simply is going to be a case of 'the fox guarding the henhouse' it is all the more urgent to determine and/or to assign and/or to exercise or to exact accountability.  (And, to be fair, often, [almost always, in fact] it can be difficult for mortals to discern when God is exacting accountability versus the simple operation of mortality's innumerable vicissitudes.)

Link to comment
6 hours ago, Meadowchik said:

I found an example of the title subject in another thread.

In it there is an argument that can be restated as, "If I do my part in a group effort and others after me don't, that's not my concern."

The argument was made in reference to tithing, and in this case tithing is collected by a church because it is considered a commandment and the church is considered to represent the Lord. And therefore, as the argument goes, I tithe to the church to obey the commandment and I must consider the act as me giving to the Lord, therefore I must not question or criticise what the church does with it because that would essentially be questioning or criticising God. And if people who represent the church abuse the tithe we've given, they are accountable and we're not because in our eyes we gave it to God.

This part here, where wealth changes hands and one person is absolutely absolved while the other person could be completely corrupt is almost like a magic trick. Realistically though it's like money laundering, but in reverse. But however you want to compare it, the act of creating an intentional blind between yourself as contributor and the institution as receiver is incredibly risky. Without accountability and transparency, this type of intentional self-absolution is a serious moral hazard.

Thinking more universally and beyond tithing and churches, this is arguably the most dangerous of individual human behaviors. Why? Because human beings as social creatures are the most powerful and effective when they collaborate. We human beings collectively create machines--social, political, literal machines--so powerful that no one individual can hinder or fight against. Institutions can become an individual's greatest enemy or greatest ally.

Institutions can harness good or evil. They most likely do some of both. Human morality must not neglect the problem of institutional accountability. It should be the highest priority whenever an institution is created. 

With this in mind, humans have been wrestling with this concept throughout history and the struggle isn't over and as long as people are coming together to create, it never will be. 

There is a sentiment of resignation in the face of this responsibility we have. I think that the common American fantasy of bugging out to a frontier and living off the grid is an extreme example. Another example of resigning to the overwhelming task of institutional morality is more common, and that's passivity. 

And even if we don't want to be passive, it's much harder to be good sentinels or stewards of our institutions if we are already falling behind in other tasks. Illness, poverty, caring for others can make anything outside of our immediate spheres seem irrelevant. And yet, ironically, it is human institutional power that is one of the greatest enemies of illness and poverty and the greatest allies to us when we are trying to care for others. 

We have to be invested to keep our institutions moral.

I think we decide which institutions to support and which to get rid of. Personally, I would not subscribe to an immoral institution. Given the reality of the powers that be, we do our best to promote good according to the norms of those institutions to which we belong.

Give that this is MDDB, I'll comment that the perpetuation of the Church as an institution depends on members perpetuating the Gospel through their lives and their descendants. The assumption (and testimony) is that the Gospel is moral: that the Son of God came to save humankind form everything running against it. Keeping Jesus moral is one thing (He does that Himself); ensuring the members and the councils of the Church are moral is another, and the Lord has given us the tools to do that.

Link to comment
3 hours ago, jkwilliams said:

There is definitely a danger in ceding your moral judgment to a human institution, even if that institution is led by God. Everything humans touch is messy, even supposed direction from the divine. When we decide that every action of a human institution is beyond question, we can be led into some terrible actions. It’s quite telling that those who express any discomfort or opposition to morally or ethically questionable behavior are usually castigated for being judgmental or speaking evil of the Lord’s anointed. 

Our conscience is usually a reliable guide to determine what is right or wrong, and we ignore our conscience at our own peril. We should be wary of those who tell us to set aside our conscience.

Not saying I understand this quote entirely, but sometimes it's happened. And your post here made me think of it.

“Religion is an insult to human dignity. Without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things.
But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
 Steven Weinberg

Link to comment
3 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

Not saying I understand this quote entirely, but sometimes it's happened. And your post here made me think of it.

“Religion is an insult to human dignity. Without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things.
But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
 Steven Weinberg

Certainly that’s the potential when you abdicate your moral judgment to an organization. It explains things like the Mountain Meadows massacre. 

Link to comment

I agree to some extent. It's basically a miracle that an institution that doesn't disclose its finances can remain scandal free for so long. And the only scandal involved a reporting technicality.

Link to comment
2 minutes ago, Hamilton Porter said:

I agree to some extent. It's basically a miracle that an institution that doesn't disclose its finances can remain scandal free for so long. And the only scandal involved a reporting technicality.

That we know of. 

Link to comment
8 hours ago, Tacenda said:

Not saying I understand this quote entirely, but sometimes it's happened. And your post here made me think of it.

“Religion is an insult to human dignity. Without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things.
But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
 Steven Weinberg

He only has half the equation. On the flip side, there are great things only religious people can do. For example, take a look at the crappy art non-religious people produce.

 

 

Edited by Hamilton Porter
Link to comment
1 minute ago, jkwilliams said:

That we know of. 

Economists and political scientists often use bureaucratic efficiency as an inverse measure of corruption. It's unlikely a corrupt organization can get returns like that.

Link to comment
1 minute ago, Hamilton Porter said:

Economists and political scientists often use bureaucratic efficiency as an inverse measure of corruption. It's unlikely a corrupt organization can get returns like that.

I’m just saying there’s no way to know whether there has been any scandalous behavior or not until someone gets caught. 

Link to comment
17 minutes ago, Calm said:

I think it is a false statement. I think there were and are good people who do evil for a good cause, like terrorists fighting for the freedom of an oppressed people where religion has nothing to do with it.  

I agree. It’s ideology (among other things) that drives people to do evil things. Religion is an ideology.

ETA: Ideology also can motivate good behavior, obviously. 

Edited by jkwilliams
Link to comment
2 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

It’s ideology (among other things) that drives people to do evil things.

And good things.

Is there anything in life that creates passion, that motivates people to move beyond subsistence behaviour that can have good results?  Serious question.

Link to comment
10 minutes ago, Calm said:

And good things.

Is there anything in life that creates passion, that motivates people to move beyond subsistence behaviour that can have good results?  Serious question.

I don’t think you need a particular ideology to want to better the lives of other people. 

Link to comment
1 hour ago, jkwilliams said:

I’m just saying there’s no way to know whether there has been any scandalous behavior or not until someone gets caught. 

Likewise, there is no way to know whether there has been any virtuous behavior or not until someone recognizes it. Knowledge is fundamentally subjective.

Link to comment
1 minute ago, jkwilliams said:

I don’t think you need a particular ideology to want to better the lives of other people. 

Agreed, but can’t this desire to better others’ lives end up in evil?.  I know plenty of people who sacrificed tons to help others but on a number of occasions they made things worse, even much worse.  And I can easily see this desire to better certain individuals’ lives being taken to the extreme so one does evil.  For example, a father wanting to better his children’s lives commits crimes or another wanting to help a child being hurt ends up harming a bully, even killing them.

Link to comment
7 minutes ago, Calm said:

Agreed, but can’t this desire to better others’ lives end up in evil?.  I know plenty of people who sacrificed tons to help others but on a number of occasions they made things worse, even much worse.  And I can easily see this desire to better certain individuals’ lives being taken to the extreme so one does evil.  For example, a father wanting to better his children’s lives commits crimes or another wanting to help a child being hurt ends up harming a bully, even killing them.

True. What counts is what you do. 

Link to comment
20 hours ago, Meadowchik said:

I found an example of the title subject in another thread.

In it there is an argument that can be restated as, "If I do my part in a group effort and others after me don't, that's not my concern."

The argument was made in reference to tithing, and in this case tithing is collected by a church because it is considered a commandment and the church is considered to represent the Lord. And therefore, as the argument goes, I tithe to the church to obey the commandment and I must consider the act as me giving to the Lord, therefore I must not question or criticise what the church does with it because that would essentially be questioning or criticising God. And if people who represent the church abuse the tithe we've given, they are accountable and we're not because in our eyes we gave it to God.

This part here, where wealth changes hands and one person is absolutely absolved while the other person could be completely corrupt is almost like a magic trick. Realistically though it's like money laundering, but in reverse. But however you want to compare it, the act of creating an intentional blind between yourself as contributor and the institution as receiver is incredibly risky. Without accountability and transparency, this type of intentional self-absolution is a serious moral hazard.

Thinking more universally and beyond tithing and churches, this is arguably the most dangerous of individual human behaviors. Why? Because human beings as social creatures are the most powerful and effective when they collaborate. We human beings collectively create machines--social, political, literal machines--so powerful that no one individual can hinder or fight against. Institutions can become an individual's greatest enemy or greatest ally.

Institutions can harness good or evil. They most likely do some of both. Human morality must not neglect the problem of institutional accountability. It should be the highest priority whenever an institution is created. 

With this in mind, humans have been wrestling with this concept throughout history and the struggle isn't over and as long as people are coming together to create, it never will be. 

There is a sentiment of resignation in the face of this responsibility we have. I think that the common American fantasy of bugging out to a frontier and living off the grid is an extreme example. Another example of resigning to the overwhelming task of institutional morality is more common, and that's passivity. 

And even if we don't want to be passive, it's much harder to be good sentinels or stewards of our institutions if we are already falling behind in other tasks. Illness, poverty, caring for others can make anything outside of our immediate spheres seem irrelevant. And yet, ironically, it is human institutional power that is one of the greatest enemies of illness and poverty and the greatest allies to us when we are trying to care for others. 

We have to be invested to keep our institutions moral.

 

 

Do you tithe (to the Church)?

Link to comment
16 hours ago, Kenngo1969 said:

If one removes God from the equation, I can understand why something like this might be a concern.  Once that is done, it makes the concern that, "Well, the organization and its powers that be must be accountable to someone, and if higher up in the 'chain of command,' so to speak, simply is going to be a case of 'the fox guarding the henhouse' it is all the more urgent to determine and/or to assign and/or to exercise or to exact accountability.  (And, to be fair, often, [almost always, in fact] it can be difficult for mortals to discern when God is exacting accountability versus the simple operation of mortality's innumerable vicissitudes.)

How does it change for you with "God [in] the equation?"

Link to comment
14 hours ago, jkwilliams said:

There is definitely a danger in ceding your moral judgment to a human institution, even if that institution is led by God. 

Yes and ceding one's moral judgement to an institution doesn't seem wise, and not something a good God would want. It sounds like something corrupt mortals would require.

Link to comment
13 hours ago, CV75 said:

I think we decide which institutions to support and which to get rid of.

Are you saying you make that decision but don't think there is a need for institutional transparency?

13 hours ago, CV75 said:

Give that this is MDDB, I'll comment that the perpetuation of the Church as an institution depends on members perpetuating the Gospel through their lives and their descendants. The assumption (and testimony) is that the Gospel is moral: that the Son of God came to save humankind form everything running against it. Keeping Jesus moral is one thing (He does that Himself); ensuring the members and the councils of the Church are moral is another, and the Lord has given us the tools to do that.

Keeping the institution moral itself is not quite the same as anything you listed here.

Link to comment
10 hours ago, jkwilliams said:

Certainly that’s the potential when you abdicate your moral judgment to an organization. It explains things like the Mountain Meadows massacre. 

One way to think of any institution is as a machine. The machine doesn't have a mind but it still has a behaviour. We as humans have to be its brains through awareness, transparency, and accountability. 

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...