Monday, April 11, 2011

Individualists least likely to offer bribes

Bribery is condemned in most cultures; but it is more common in some countries than in others. Is poverty, political instability, or lax regulation to blame? A new study published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests a surprising contributor: Collectivism—a culture that downplays individual self-determination and stresses interdependence and shared responsibility.

“Collectivism may promote bribery by diffusing responsibility,” says Professor Nina Mazar, who conducted the study with Professor Pankaj Aggarwal, also at the University of Toronto’s Joseph L. Rotman School of Management. Collectivism may allow individuals to sidestep their personal morality and do business in ways they know to be wrong.

To test this hypothesis, the authors conducted both a cross-national study and a lab experiment.

The cross-national study looked at 21 of the world’s most economically influential countries for correlations between collectivism and bribery in international business. Collectivism was rated using an established international survey of some 17,000 corporate managers, who rated the “degree to which individuals express pride, loyalty, and cohesiveness in their organizations or families” in their countries. Another instrument tallied national rates of bribery by asking executives how often firms from various foreign countries offered illicit incentives when doing business in the executives’ countries. The researchers factored in the nations’ wealth as well as the extent to which they valued prosocial and ethical considerations.

The findings: The poorer and more collectivist a country, the more likely it was to turn to bribery. Controlling for wealth and also for moral standards, collectivism still correlated “fairly strongly” with the willingness to offer payments under the table.

To test causal relationships, not just correlations, the researchers conducted a laboratory experiment. In it, 140 business students were divided into two groups and primed with either an individualist or collectivist mindset using well-established manipulations.

Then participants were asked to assume the role of a sales agent competing against two other firms for a contract with an international buyer, and a commission. Would they bribe the buyer? Having answered that question, they rated the degree of responsibility they felt for their actions, their desire for the contract, inappropriateness of the bribe, likelihood the competitors would bribe or that a bribe would win the contract. Finally, participants were tested for mood and arousal.

As expected, the collectivists felt less personally accountable and more prone to grease the buyer’s palm. Collectivist mindset affected neither mood, moral judgment, assessment of a bribe’s effectiveness, motivation, nor any other factor.

Even when the choice to bribe or not was directly assessed — in a second experiment with 47 participants—the collectivist group felt less personal responsibility.

The study suggests that the motivations for corrupt business practices may be viewed too narrowly. Bribery is “not just about the economic costs or benefits, says Mazar. “‘Soft factors’ like cultural values might be quite important.” If we can understand them, “we may be able to design more effective and efficient measures of prevention.”



Europe slides further into economic darkness

Some people are never going to get back the money they lent to spendthrift Southern European countries

Tim Hughes

IF YOU count all 27 members of the European Union together as one economic unit, then Europe is the world's largest economy.

In short, Europe is incredibly important to the world economy, and also in unbelievably severe financial difficulty.

Europe's financial system is held together by nothing more than temporary Band-Aids. And the only solution that anyone seems to have is to apply even more dressings to the wounds without treating the systemic failures at the root of the disease.

I have spent the past week talking to European pension funds, investment managers and economic experts. It has been a sobering experience of hope without foundations, of faith without real belief, and of despair without solutions.

The few things that everyone agrees on are that: the problem is very serious; that it would be economic suicide for any member of the Euro zone to seek to exit the Euro; and that much of the huge debt accumulated by some southern European countries can never be repaid.

Countries such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal have basically passed the point of no return on their public debt. The sheer interest bill on the debt is so large that it can only be paid by borrowing more. In other words, without default they face a spiral into the financial abyss.

The problem here is that any default would have an almost fatal impact on the German and French banks who own much of the debt.

But the only Europeans with the financial resources to bail out the big debtors are Germany and France.

So far not a single Euro of German or French money has actually gone to the failed nations. Rather all of the support is in the form of paper guarantees on new borrowings.

The reality here is that taxpayer anger at the thought of bailing out profligate, indolent, undisciplined southern Europeans is absolutely enormous. An actual bailout would spell absolute electoral disaster for any government that did it.

The only other option for the debtors appears to be to leave the Euro and suffer a massive devaluation of their new currencies. But with their debt all in Euros, this would increase their actual debt burden and make default inescapable.



Kill Crony Capitalism

Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric, was recently appointed by President Obama to chair the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. So it was no surprise when Immelt published a column in the Washington Post in which he applauded Obama for completing a free-trade agreement with South Korea – leaving completely unmentioned the fact that the agreement was actually negotiated five years ago, and was approved by Obama and Congressional Democrats only after it was changed to include costly giveaways to their union buddies.

Immelt somehow also failed to write about the thousands of American jobs lost purely because Obama and his Democratic posse have failed to affirm similar agreements with Panama and Colombia. This whole episode just illustrates how Big Business is beholden to Big Government, and why ”Crony Capitalism,” a huge tax on the vast majority of Americans, has got to be eliminated ASAP.

The left likes to attack Crony Capitalism because they only see it as the underhanded machinations of Big Business, Big Oil, or some other imagined Big. While these are indeed valid observations – even a stopped clock is right twice a day – Crony Capitalism comes in many forms and is a surefire sign of government run amok, which is why Republicans, prompted by the Tea Party, have begun to focus on the issue.

There are, regrettably, many styles of Crony Capitalism, each of which saps the federal government, states and municipal governments, as well as every taxpayer along for the ride:

Big Business – The sheer size of the federal government makes it conducive to large entities or consortiums sucking the life out of it for their own purposes. 80% of agriculture subsidies go to large agri-businesses. Big Steel was protected from competition for years. Billions were poured into the auto industry, much of which we’ll never get back. Insurance companies receive special dispensation in the tax code to enhance their profits. And, of course, there’s the AARP, whose Medi-Gap coverage was granted a waiver by Obama – conveniently placing every one of their competitors at a substantial disadvantage. These businesses are either feeding at the trough of government or manipulating regulation for their own devious purposes, and it’s why almost half of the political donations from large businesses go to liberal Democrats.

Big Business also uses its muscle to influence public policy. Walmart – along with the major drug companies – sold us out on the health care bill to get a competitive advantage. Now Wal-mart is teaming up with the government to coerce Amazon into collecting sales taxes for interstate sales – every dime of which will come out of our pockets. In both cases, Big Business is actively working to expand Big Government – and always at the cost of the little guy.

Walmart moves into a new market area and there are major protests. The protests are not because Walmart has tremendous advantage over local retailers with confronting government regulations such as OSHA. Although the argument centers on the ability of small retailers to survive with Walmart as a competitor, the campaign to stop the big box retailer is funded by Big Unions and other Big Businesses such as Safeway and Costco who hire those unionized workers. These entities use Crony Capitalism to achieve their goals to protect their own interests.

Business Licenses – We often complain about government intervention in our lives, but then we run to the government, usually at the State level, to protect our businesses from competition. The expansion of unwarranted licensing requirements is completely out of control, and just drives up the cost of government and the related licensed services.

No one will ever dispute that certain professions need to be licensed. From my standpoint as a CPA, I believe that it’s actually good that the Feds have stepped in to demand minimal testing for tax preparers – a requirement instituted in response to multiple instances of charlatans using the tax preparer role to defraud the government through the abuse of refundable credits.

Yet the list of “professions” lining up in state capitals to protect themselves under the guise of protecting the public boggles the mind. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal identified cat groomers, music therapists (whatever that is), tattoo “artists,” and tree trimmers as examples of “professionals” attempting to enhance their own revenue through Crony Capitalism. In New York State, you need a license to be an interior decorator. To be fair, some of the houses I’ve seen there clearly warrant criminal charges against their designers, but a license? Thankfully, there are no licenses required for movie makers, because most of Hollywood would be in Leavenworth.

These ridiculous requests by private citizens to have government safeguard them and protect their income are no less offensive than the policy and regulatory manipulations by big businesses.

Government Workers – Yes, this is also Crony Capitalism and it’s no better – and often much worse – than the categories above.

Many government workers are members of unions, which extract excessive dues through payroll deductions. The union then uses those dues to elect council members, school board members and state representatives who are beholden to them. The elected officials then rubber stamp their benefactors’ salary and benefit requests. If this isn’t Crony Capitalism, then I don’t know what would qualify as such.

The common thread here is that Crony Capitalism is a symptom of too much government. Business owners are often forced to make a tough decision: do I stay true to my free-market convictions, or do I play the game. Sadly, too many executives – like Jeffery Immelt – become whores to government and sell their principles for short-term benefits. Is there any surprise that GE announced it made over $14 billion in 2010 and made no American taxes? Unfortunately, those short-term benefits turn into long-term losses of freedom that may never be regained, and for which we all pay a very steep price.



You Can Slaughter Christians, But You Can't Burn a Koran

After Pastor Terry Jones, Yosemite Sam’s cousin from Light-A-Fart Fellowship in Shag-Your-Cousin, Florida, fired up a Koran, the Muslim community of Afghanistan responded by lovingly praying for their enemy and asking to meet with Rev. Fuego for an interfaith pow-wow over a peach cobbler at the Ground Zero Mosque.

What’s that, you say? The Muslims didn’t turn the other cheek? I’m misinformed? The Afghani Muslims instead started killing people … as in, a lot of their own people? Well, hell, that ain’t right. I thought Islam was a religion of peace and that opium was a sedative!

I know, maybe it was just a few rogue adherents who acted, how would Obama say, unbecomingly. Yeah, that’s it. Yep, if we’re to believe the media it was probably just a few misguided congregants (with scimitars, of course) who went a tad too far and … uh … um, beheaded some folks.

That’s kind of like how the well-meaning ACORN employees overstepped boundaries and accidentally aided and abetted illegal home loans for whorehouses running 13-year-old sex slaves from El Salvador, or the other ACORNers who have now pleaded guilty to massive voter fraud in the 2008 presidential election. It was what we call in the south a “whoopsy-daisy.”

According to the main stream media, when dealing with Islam and the likes of ACORN (who I’ve heard changed their name to FCORN) we must remember the immortal words of Donny Osmond: When they do commit a misstep, “One bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch, girl.” Indeed, when Muslims decapitate their own people because Mark Twain lit his still with a Koran, it doesn’t mean that Muslims endorse or allow that kind of behavior. At least that’s what CAIR and Eric Holder tell us to believe. Anyway …

General David Petraeus, faithfully serving his Commander-in-Chief in Afghanistan, trotted out and condemned Minister Match’s actions this past week after the Afghani Muslims found out, via Karzai, what Pastor Pyro had done and thus took understandable kinetic action after their book was barbequed. What was strangely missing from Petraeus’ rebuke was the good General’s denunciation of Karzai for inciting the flammable of this quaint faith and the murder of a couple dozen innocent U.N. workers and many Muslims. Hello. I’d say, not to be unkind, that on the grand scale of things, killing people is more damnable than roasting a special paperback book.

I had a guy ask me the other day after this incident while I was shopping at Victoria’s Secret, “How would you feel if someone burned a Bible?” And I was like, “Dude, I’m trying to choose between getting my wife the lace-panel bustier versus the point d'esprit apron baby doll, and you’re fouling up my mojo decision-making process with your book burning questions.” I quickly realized I was being intemperate and told him I really wouldn’t care if they burned a Christian Bible or not. That’s between them and God, and they better hope that God thinks that’s hilarious because I hear His paybacks suck.

That said, I told my friend that I’m more concerned about the unreported, virtually uncondemned mass slaughter of Christians in Iraq—at the hands of Muslims—and the thousand or so who were slaughtered just this week on the Ivory Coast of Africa and the fact that they had nada to do with TJ flash grillin’ Mohammed’s bestseller. It’s just how Islam rolls when it comes to interfacing with other faiths; they kill them or oppress them, and thus it seems (at least to stupid ol’ me) a wee bit of an imbalance to sharply denounce uncle Jed’s cousin for morphing Allah’s book into ashes and not vehemently denouncing, in the strongest of terms and with deadly action, Muslims who are killing Christians worldwide.


There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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