Daily Entropy 4: corruption also decays


Power doesn’t corrupt.  Like entropy, corruption is a function of state for organisations and information systems.  Corruption is not a sign of failure, but like the entropy of a heat engine, it leads to inefficiency and failure.  Corruption arises naturally in all organisations because even if you manage to preserve the abstract instructions for managing an institution or organisation in perfect order, people have to apply the instructions in different orders and in different circumstances, and advantages will accrue to certain people and not to others, and those advantages are free energy.  Free energy (money) is a hard thing to turn off once you turn it on.  Of course there is intentional corruption, where people set out to take personal advantage from political power, but most corruption starts with a mistake or random temptation, not malicious avarice.  Still, it’s hard to turn it off regardless of whether it comes from psychopathy or error, and like a car being driven at top speed instead of cruising speed, corruption looks like success until it boils over and breaks down.  You can’t see corruption in the results, so spreadsheets are great places to hide it.  The numbers don’t lie, they just don’t tell you how they got there.

Like all forms of entropy, corruption is immune from direct attack because in the abstract it is no different from the organisation itself.  FIFA was founded to make money off of world football, so how can you say that Sepp Blatter was corrupt for making money off of world football?  You have to be very clear about the manner in which the organisation is meant to do what it does, and let the corruption bleed out of the system over time.

Corruption may be endemic, but it is never hopeless.  Corruption also decays through entropy.  FIFA’s corruption finally became undeniable when there were too many hands in the pot and not enough cash to keep all of them full.  At least three nations thought they had bought the world cup, so when it ended up in Qatar, both the fixers and the fixed went looking for heads to roll, and there wasn’t enough money left in the kitty to keep everyone quiet.  Like water flowing downhill, corruption seeks its level.


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