From the movie Last Man Standing:
Capt. Tom Pickett: Things in this town are out of control. Two gangs is just one too many… What I’m concerned with is keeping a lid on things, and what we got here in Jericho is just way out of hand, and Sheriff Galt, here, can’t do much about it, right? Matter of fact, it might be fair to say that he’s part of the problem, right? Now you been going back and forth, playing both sides according to Mr. Galt, here, making yourself a lot of money out of all this. Well, it’s over, son. I’m coming back here in ten days, and I’m gonna bring about twenty rangers with me. I will tolerate *one* gang, because that is the nature of things. A certain amount of corruption is inevitable. But if I find *two* gangs here when I get back, then in a couple of hours there will be *no* gangs here. So it’s simple. One gang quits and goes home. You boys work it out. I don’t give a damn which one.
(Video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SG0RjhdNPCQ starting at the 1:47 mark.)
Why does Pickett say that a certain amount of corruption is inevitable? Sure, there’s no such thing as perfection in this vale of toil and sin, but might there be a more specific reason?
Yes: If there were no corruption there’d be no reason to have social measures to control corruption, so we wouldn’t have any such measures… but without such measures corruption would be low-risk and very rewarding. So corruption would appear. Thus, as Pickett says, a certain amount of it is inevitable.
For the same reason, as I wrote in a recent post, institutions like news media and educational institutions will always end up with some sort of bias, unfortunately. It is not a Nash equilibrium for them to be bias-free. This is because if they were bias-free, then we’d trust them… but if we trust them, they can get away with being biased without being detected. So essentially there’s no internally consistent scenario without bias.
Similarly, a zero-violence world cannot be an equilibrium: If there were no violence then we’d have no measures to prevent or punish violence, but if there are no such measures then et cetera.
A la mode: Predation and parasitism are ubiquitous in nature. Indeed, when computer folks first started playing around with evolving artificial life, one of the things they often noticed was the rise of parasitism and predation, even when they hadn’t built those features into their worlds at the outset.
It is tempting to think that we can solve this problem with oversight bodies that will discipline the institutions we’re concerned about, but those oversight bodies are subject to the same problem. There’s an infinite recursion problem here. Thus the ancient rhetorical question, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
This doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything or that all political institutions are equally good or equally bad. After all, the left took over or schools, so in principle we can do the same. But we must be realistic about what is achievable and how long such successes can persist. (If the left thinks their victories will last forever they’re using too short a time scale to think about these things.)