If the negotiator expects a bribe then we have to offer one or we lose the business to someone with fewer scruples.
If their lot tell lies then we have to be a little economical with the truth too. Otherwise we lose the election to someone with fewer scruples.
If I don’t report this story as received then my source may go to someone with fewer scruples.
If I don’t follow the narrative then my superiors will sideline me in favour of someone with fewer scruples.
If I don’t present the data in this way then my superiors will sideline me in favour of someone with fewer scruples.
If I am not more enthusiastic about this absurd idea then my superior will promote someone with fewer scruples.
If I don’t spread my share of the gossip then my friends will stop listening and move on to people with fewer scruples.
Too often the good guys get nowhere, never did, never could. When it comes to climbing greasy poles, the logic of corruption and moral ambivalence are compelling. Environments select – it’s what they do. So an environment where corruption and moral ambivalence are condoned will select those who adapt to it. Rotten apples - it's a good metaphor.
We only seem to have two ways round this problem – legal and moral. We sidled around Christian moral imperatives some time ago so that leaves laws and regulations.
But without the invisible hand of moral imperatives, however imperfect it may have been, laws and regulations have to be extremely detailed, rigorously enforced and constantly revised as new evasive strategies emerge.
Not only that, but human behaviour has to be managed in minute detail. Good guys, bad guys, there is no distinction when it comes to the mass management of behaviour. How could there be?
What could possibly go wrong?