Gail Regan is vice-chair of Cara Operations, retired.  She chairs Energy Probe Research Foundation and is a member of the Canadian Association of Family Enterprise. She has a PhD in Educational Theory and an M.B.A. in Finance.  Her background in sociology and personal experience of business has given her an intellectual interest in the problem of evil.  








Syndrome Mixing And Corruption

Chapter Seven




According to a vision first developed by the ancient philosopher Plato, and then modernized by urban geographer Jane Jacobs, differentiating guardian and commercial “syndromes” is key to peaceful prosperity.  When syndromes mix, when government officials (guardians) turn commercial and look for payoffs, or when commercial enterprises become guardian and can use force, the ensuing corruption impoverishes, increases social inequality, and invites violence.


In advanced economies, actual honest-to-goodness differentiation of commerce and government fueled the peaceful prosperity that was with us prior to the financial crisis of 2008.  However, contrary to the vision, legal, idealized syndrome mixing had also crept in.  Some businesses inspired themselves with visions of grandeur suitable for government, while governments entered housing markets and adopted the laissez-faire idea that regulating these manipulated markets was unnecessary.  Businesses acted as if they were guardians of territory and governments were too humble to take responsibility for their mandate.  The mixed metaphor asked for trouble and trouble came.


Although genuine differentiation was the real base for peaceful prosperity, syndrome mixing captured the collective imagination.  My concern is that the delusion not only created chaos, it grew corruption. Laurence Cockcroft’s recent book Global Corruption illustrates corruption’s many types, its history and efforts to combat it.  He points out that legal mechanisms such as “secrecy jurisdictions” and “mispricing” enable corruption, but also help balance of trade and corporate profitability in advanced economies.  Rich countries, even though they do not tolerate corruption in their home base, depend on it anyway.


Post-crisis Canada and the U.S. have more unemployment and more income inequality than before.  Even if we elect leftist politicians who devote themselves to restoring full employment and relative equality, we will still have government agencies and private institutions tolerating corruption in poor countries and in trade practices between the rich and the poor.  This has backlash for Canadian and U.S. poverty and inequality, whether we like it or not.


Recovery will happen, but the process is no longer a case of simply replacing foolish ideals with wise ones.  Our newfound dependency on sin is another challenge.      


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