People think the system is rigged and are losing faith in democracyby Dag Detter, Stefan Fölster / April 24, 2017 / Leave a comment
While many countries are making some headway in tackling corruption, a more insidious phenomenon is spreading, inflicting vast costs on societies and perhaps even threatening democracy. We are going to call this “legal cheating”: the use of non-criminal but abusive methods to game the system for personal gain.
A growing cadre of self-serving legal cheaters and influence peddlers shape our future. They are often highly educated and have become expert at exploiting complex legal structures to the limit, while often twisting and complicating them even further. Collectively they have produced abysmal outcomes for many ordinary people who are now in political revolt. Our calculations, based on recent research, reveal enormous collateral damage.
This does not go unnoticed. A 2016 poll found that 71 per cent of Americans think the economic system in the United States is “rigged in favour of certain groups.” The current authoritarian-populist revolt in many countries is sometimes blamed on the financial crisis, the power of social media, or a longer term decay in politics. Regardless of the root causes, the rise of legal cheating is an important contributor to discontent.
The new authoritarian-populist movements rarely “drain the swamp,” but can actually end up feeding the monster of legal cheating. But there are ways of making institutions less vulnerable. And political leadership that reduces cheating is sometimes handsomely rewarded by voters.
Do no harm: the US healthcare system
As an illustration of the costs of legal cheating, consider deaths in hospitals in the US. Surprisingly often, patients die because they contract antibiotic resistant bacteria during routine operations. Infections from resistant bacteria spread when too many antibiotics are prescribed. According to studies, when antibiotics are given in intensive care units they are unnecessary, inappropriate, or suboptimal about half the time. Too many physicians reject existing guidelines as a bureaucratic intrusion, or simply rush through the procedures.