Be critical or be corrupted

283
27
2 days
(cenizal.com)
by kiyanwang

Comments

woodruffw
2 days

This is a good summary of a specific motif in The Wire, but I think it misses the larger message of the show: that there is no institutional or even individual difference between the two recurring groups in the show (Baltimore's police and drug dealers).

In the show, both groups of individuals are subject to their institutions: power figures come and go (and bring changes that superficially alter the state of affairs), but the game fundamentally remains the same. This repeats itself in every explored institution: industry, schools, news, &c.

In other words: there is no avoiding "corruption," only moving it around. The show's few "good" characters are characterized primarily by the ways in which their personal corruption does or does not affect the corruption of the larger institution they belong to (Daniels' FBI investigation, for example, or Kima's personal descent.)

jonnybgood
2 days

I think the exception is Omar. I don’t see Omar as corrupt. I think many people see him as one of the “good” ones, relatively speaking. He didn’t move around what he was and what he was about. He stayed completely true to it. He didn’t have a larger institution as you say. He was his own institution.

woodruffw
2 days

Omar doesn't fit as easily into the mold, but you can see ways in which his amoral characterization establish his roles in the criminal and LEO institutions: he's an opportunist, stealing from those who can't go to the police to report crime.

He's his own institution, but he isn't above his own drives for vengeance and thrill: later seasons characterize him as depressed by his own infamy, driving him to seek out new criminal targets to keep the heat up.

Aerroon
1 day

Omar would also realistically fizzle out. He would either get killed or end up killing innocents by accident. There's only so many times intimidation works without serious incidents.

UncleMeat
2 days

And yet, after his death he is replaced.

Floegipoky
2 days

And his killer is a young child, a replacement for the previously exploited child-murderer (who was killed by Michael).

treis
2 days

Who replaces Omar?

UncleMeat
2 days

Michael. He is robbing dealers in the last episode.

MonkeyMalarky
2 days

In the last episode, doesn't Bubbles see a couple of the kids from the highschool going to buy drugs and recognizes a younger version of himself and his friend from the 1st season? That whole episode was about the cycle of drugs, violence and poverty repeating itself.

kahrl
2 days

Omar comin.

jfengel
2 days

And I saw that phrase on a poster in a Baltimore takeout joint just the other day. It resonates powerfully still.

dredmorbius
2 days

The Cheese stands alone.

ep103
2 days

Man, this is NOT the main message I took away from the show.

The main message of the show, as I viewed it, was:

The drug trade is fundamentally an outgrowth of a society that thinks in individualist terms, but lacks either the social collective and moral knowledge or the social collective and moral willingness to think outside of those individualist terms and individualist responsibilities sufficiently far enough to fix the issue.

This is because everyone in the show is acting as a rational agent following their own personal incentives. And in aggregate, these personal incentives become social forces that guide the actions of the institutions these people create in order to further their pursuit of these personal incentives. These are collectively referred to as "the rules of the game".

The show goes to extreme length to show, over and over again, that so long as everyone is following their individual incentives, IE following the rules of the game, it is NOT possible to solve the drug trade. The drug trade is itself a natural outgrowth of following personal incentives. (Why hamsterdam fails, why jimmy can't solve all crimes, why cedric can't reform the station himself, etc)

The show then makes very, very overt points to show that we all still have individualist responsibility, and our individual choices can and will make positive and negative impacts on the wider community and the people within our sphere of influence.

It then goes further and shows that by making the correct moral choices, by looking outside of our own individualist incentives, you CAN change the rules of the game for the people within your sphere of influence (Carter teaching humane police work, or opening a gym in a bad neighborhood). Similarly, doing the opposite and doubling down on personal incentive more ruthlessly will likely make the drug trade worse, but may personally benefit you more in the short term (Marlo, the journalist).

Phrased another way: if the drug trade could be solved by individual action, it would have been so already. The issues that plague Baltimore are issues that result from individualist thinking, and not being able to see outside of that.

The only person who really sits in a position of power large enough to successfully change the rules of the game, while acting solely as an individual, is the Mayor. But he is also very strongly incentivized NOT to do this, as doing so will require him to self-sacrifice his personal career as a politician. (He refuses to raise money from the suburbs, which are a voting block he would need to run for state Governor. He assumes that the suburban voters would punish him for that, even if he spent the money on Baltimore schools, due to their focus on their self-interest). So again, because he chooses to think in terms of personal incentives, the issue will not change.

The show, therefore questions why America and Americans act this way. The show is hoping that the reason we act this way is because we lack the knowledge about how everyone only thinking for themselves results in "the rules of the game" and puts everyone in this situation. It HOPES that if a show like The Wire exists, and teaches everyone this fact, then the individual characters in the show might look up for a moment, and demand, collectively, that the rules of the game change, by thinking outside of their own personal station in life. You will notice meaningfully absent from any character in the show is any type of character that actively attempts to do this, perhaps by organizing a social movement for meaningful social change, collectively, at the community level. This is what the writers talk about when asked "what should people do."

The show fears that people don't know, because they don't care. That people are fine with the pain and suffering that comes from the drug trade, so long as they get to pursue their individual incentives. To counter this, the show tries to point out that the characters that go the first path, and make the conscious choice to benefit their local community by thinking outside their own situation (the boxer guy, carter, bunny) all wind up happier and with better lives, than the ones who "succeed" at the game on individualist terms (marlo, barksdales, sobotka), in the long term.

treis
2 days

This is too narrow of a focus. Yes the Wire says all that about the drug trade but it also says quite a bit about the general nature of institutions and the people in them. The broader point is that the whole society is like "the game" and people are playing various roles in it. Whether it's a newspaper, union, police department, drug organization, politics, schools, and so on there's a fundamental dynamic between individual success, organizational success, and the general good.

Some care only about their success (Rawls/The Reporter who makes up stuff)

Some care about the greater good but sacrifice it for personal success (Mayor Littlefinger)

Some want the organization to succeed (Sgt Fatso)

Some want to do good but are thwarted (Daniels & the editor who's name I can't remmeber)

Some do bad and throw it all away trying to do good (McNulty)

And there's many more. Ultimately that's what the show is about.

ep103
2 days

Yes, The Wire is a human story. And their personal motivations and decisions, and the results of those choices are what are compelling and informative. I think "Sgt Fatso", has a surprisingly good number of lessons to teach on middle management, for example.

I think, however, that that choice of these characters, motivations and stories fits within the larger theme I described above.

woodruffw
2 days

This is a great comment. I haven't viewed the show through this particular lens, and I'm sure that this will influence how I view it the next (5th or 6th?) time I do.

pessimizer
2 days

Individual moral action, fine, maybe.

But the show was definitely not in any way about the reality of the drug trade because it didn't depict the reality of the drug trade, especially the drug trade in Baltimore (if anything, it has vague similarities to the 80s-early 90s drug trade in Chicago.) Yes, I know he worked at the Baltimore Sun. The Corner was exactly authentic Baltimore. Even Simon would tell you that The Wire isn't.

The drug trade was a setting for making statements and playing out thought experiments about morality, power, and institutions (which you've pointed out from your perspective.) But if you see it as an accurate reflection of the drug trade anywhere, you're being deceived by fantasy fiction.

ep103
2 days

The interview I saw with Simon, they asked him what did he consider to be unrealistic about The Wire. His response was that they needed to simplify the organization on the drug side. The reality was more complex, and groups were usually much, much smaller, but to make it work for the show they simplified into larger cartels the audience would be able to remember.

As for the non-drug side, well, let me say this. I went to college with a number of people from the DC political circuit, and they would get together each week to watch The Wire and drink and laugh. The reason for their laughter? They personally knew the people in the show that the characters were quietly depicting, and would find their portrayals accurate or hilarious. There were more than a few articles that came out when the series first aired of local noteworthies accusing The Wire of slander, to which The Wire's writing team would respond: "What made you think you were this character?"

But yes, ultimately I agree with you. The Wire is a fiction intended to be very close to reality, to make a point about the state of that reality. I think one of the major points, is the one I wrote above.

rakejake
1 day

Fantastic comment. I think this makes a lot of sense, even outside the drug trade/Baltimore setting. Cultures which are highly individualistic usually have a different set of problems (drugs, mental health, gun culture in America etc) than societies with stronger community (religious strife, intolerance, a certain rigidity in life). In both cases, some movement to the other side is met with resistance, the collective bias of the people.

suoduandao2
2 days

So The Wire is a subtle endorsement of the 'game B' idea?

ep103
2 days

No, thinking outside the strict confines of one's own self-interest is not an idea limited to just one ideology, including that one.

tsol
12 hours

What is Game b? I looked it up and I'm both fascinated and confused. I wondered if you could tell me more about it.

floxy
2 days

Isn't the morally ambiguous protagonist the American TV/movie trope?

woodruffw
2 days

It is indeed: American audiences love characters that are basically just conduits for "does the ends justify the means"-type plots.

I think The Wire is a bit better than that, though: the moral ambiguity in The Wire seldom boils down to justifying the means: plenty of characters are just bad in an individual capacity while doing good in their professional capacity, or vice versa.

The Omar character is probably the most straightforward in terms of the trope, but even he does not act for the sake of the ends: he does it because it's all he knows.

Upgrayyed_U
2 days

Sure, it is now, but was that the case 20+ years ago when The Wire first aired?

woodruffw
2 days

I think it's become more common, but the subgenre of "surveillance" media has always had elements of this. Compare The Conversation (1974)[1], for example.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Conversation

floxy
2 days

Han shot first. Also, like every movie starring Clint Eastwood?

d23
2 days

Man, I need to give the wire another shot.

MobileVet
2 days

It is daunting at first, if for no other reason than the shear number of characters. It probably takes 3 episodes just to understand who is who, despite the amazing acting.

There is no show that I have seen before or after The Wire that puts such a lens to American culture in the inner city. It is a masterpiece of story telling. The writing and acting are just spot on and the story... it's brilliant.

mayormcmatt
2 days

FWIW, I restarted it last week after falling off years ago before finishing the first season. It was my problem, not the show's: I wasn't paying attention, my attention span was awful. This time, I'm paying attention and have trouble not watching three or more episodes per night. What a riveting show!

lostlogin
2 days

The re-release has upped the quality. I’m not American and struggled with the accents for a few episodes, but it’s absolutely the best show I’ve ever watched.

JackFr
2 days

Funny - the first time I tried it didn’t catch. Felt ‘meh’ after 1.5 episodes. Then went back and tried again and have watched the entire run twice and consider myself a big fan.

chrisweekly
2 days

It's a slow burn for sure. But so worth the investment.

jwlake
2 days

The first season is slow but it really picks up.

jeffbee
2 days

I don’t see how anyone could watch the opening scene of The Wire and not be compelled to watch the rest of it.

lupire
2 days

The show is extremely dangerous to mental health, if you care about living in a good world and can't handle the impossibility of it.

lostlogin
2 days

There is some excellent comedy in it too though. Dark for sure, but very funny.

jamiek88
2 days

Nigga, is you taking notes on a motherfucking criminal conspiracy?

Godel_unicode
2 days

I love that scene, it’s such a great example of cargo-culting.

jeffbee
2 days

Simon's previous TV show, and his book, revolved around the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl. I feel like that was already enough to squash hopes of living in a good world.

UncleMeat
2 days

It really is a stunning scene. As a big fan, I do wish they cut out a little of McNulty's repetition to the audience so they understand the slang but the final button on the scene is just so good it is impossible to really complain.

spiderjerusalem
1 day

I believe David Simon said somewhere that one way to think about The Wire is they took Greek mythology and replaced the gods with institutions.

pelasaco
2 days

the article has no meat, so empty, that we prefer to focus in "The Wire" :)

pphysch
2 days

> there is no avoiding "corruption," only moving it around.

American culture, and to a lesser extent Western culture in general, encourages this kind of corruption. If your culture elevates individualism and freedom above social responsibility and harmony, then your institutions will be systemically corrupted by selfish individuals.

So yes, given a culture that prioritizes individualism above all, corruption is unavoidable.

In other news, a former CCP top government minister was just sentenced to death for corruption. Incentives at work.

DoughnutHole
2 days

Except that those individualistic countries in the west have some of the lowest rates of corruption and lowest perceptions of corruption in the world. The supposedly less individualistic countries of the east lag behind, including China.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption_Perceptions_Index

The Asian countries that do match the west for low levels of corruption (Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore) largely have a very obvious trait in common - wealth. The least corrupt countries are all among the world's wealthiest, and the most corrupt all among its poorest - regardless of how "individualistic" the country is.

The poorer a country is the more necessary are the advantages to be gained by gaming the system. The weaker a country's institutions the easier it is to get away with corruption - hence the worst offenders being failed states like Syria and Lybia. It's honestly fairly simple even without considering culture.

If anything a more collective society is more susceptible to corruption (and I say this as proponent of big government). The reason China hands out death sentences for corruption is that an individual at the top of the governmental organisations in China can do an enormous amount of damage since the government directly controls the apparatus of the economy and has a huge stake in every major company. No governmental official in the west has as much control over the societal purse as a high ranking official of the CCP.

pphysch
2 days

Those Western "Corruption" ratings are deeply unserious. Washington is totally, systemically corrupt. Lobbying, insider trading, and the revolving door are all corrupt practices that practically define the Beltway.

Try winning even a local government seat without being buddy-buddy with local "employers", media, and other unofficial power brokers. That's not democracy.

DoughnutHole
2 days

The fact that your prime examples of corruption in the west is Washington corruption and corruption in local government indicates you don't have a grasp of what truly endemic corruption is like in developing countries.

- Do you have to personally slip a DMV official several times the actual required fee whenever you get your license renewed to get them to even look at the application?

- Do you have to directly bribe police officers to get them to respond to your complaint? If you were pulled over for a traffic offence would your assumed way out of it be to personally slip something to the police officer?

- Do truckers have to routinely bribe state officials when crossing state lines?

- Do local officials routinely illegally procure land via the government purse for their own personal use?

- Are government officials ever bribed to declare someone dead to allow someone to erroneously claim the totally-not-dead person's property?

These are all pretty much regular occurrences in India - a country that is basically middling in terms of corruption on a global scale. And don't worry, they have all of the high level local and national legislative corruption that the US has as well, with the bonus of a civil service and judiciary that are corrupt from the top down to their roots.

Outside the west corruption isn't just government officials making bad choices to satisfy their doners and special interests (as bad and dysfunctional as that is). In most developing countries it's a fact of day-to-day life - if you are on the lower rungs of the social ladder you have to personally engage in corruption in order to survive. Getting a home, a business licence, governmental documentation etc etc pretty much always come down to either who you know or who you bribe. And if you're higher up you might be lucky enough to benefit from it.

dasil003
2 days

I'm dual citizen Brazilian / American, so I understand what you mean about endemic corruption. That said, I think the GP has a point that there is a more subtle higher-level corruption of leadership that is potentially even more damaging over the long term. This form of corruption gets papered over and obfuscated precisely because the beneficiaries are few, rich, and well-trained in politics and PR.

andrepd
2 days

Absolutely spot on. What is the consequence of the fact that in the US there is virtually no correlation between the opinions of the bottom 80% poorer citizens about a given bill, and the likelihood that bill is adopted? While the correlation for the 0.1% wealthier is nearly perfect? Is it less harmful than having to slip a tenner to low-level officials.

SyzygistSix
1 day

Is that corruption or is it the lack of participation in our democracy? The percentage of people that vote is rather small, especially in the primary elections when it really makes a difference. I think most government action is in alignment with the people who vote and participate the most.

pphysch
2 days

It's an interesting phenomenon: the dwindling middle class in the West frowns upon corruption even as it is the lifeblood of the ruling classes.

Who do I gotta donate to? Which ZIP code do I gotta live in? Which special "membership plan"/recurring bribe do I have to pay to get access to decent social services?

America in particular has institutionalized corruption so that it no longer resembles the bespoke form practiced in developing countries. Media portrayals plays a big role in this. After all, what is corruption but allowing market forces to rule over human rights, justice, and essential public services?

twblalock
2 days

Living in a certain zip code is not corruption, and Americans don't need to bribe social services, or the police, to get on with their daily lives without being molested. There are many countries where that is not the case.

short_sells_poo
2 days

I saw it described as:

The West is corrupt, but in a different way. Politician can be bought for certain projects, people who control the flow of money can be encouraged to let it flow more one way than the other, etc. But trying to bribe a policeman can land you in serious trouble. It's better to pay a $50 fine than try to bribe them with $30 off the books. In other words, in Western society, middle-class corruption is perhaps not really worth it (on average). The stakes have to be much higher than that.

Developing countries have more widespread corruption, in that it is part of everyday life. If you want your passport renewed, you have to bribe the clerk, otherwise it will take 1 year. If a policeman stops you, they may well be looking for a bribe and you can make things go much more smoothly by acquiescing.

I'd argue that low-level corruption is more immediately annoying to everyday life, but it is the high level corruption that is the real pervasive worldwide issue. In the same way that pickpockets are annoying, but a single corrupt government can plunder the public finances and run the country into ruin.

avgcorrection
2 days

Hah! Rich people outright buying political influence at the federal level and lower, setting the agenda of the whole nation: not bribery. No: having to bribe policemen and petty officials is true corruption…

Aunche
2 days

It's easy to believe that rich people "outright buy political influence" when you only pay attention to examples of when they happen to get what they want, and don't care about the examples of when they don't:

- Bloomberg spent almost $1 billion dollars in his presidential campaign and barely got any delegates

- Google constantly gets blocked from rolling out Google Fiber, despite being richer than all the telecom companies combined

- Facebook really wants to outsource moderation decision making, so they can point their finger at something when it comes to unpopular moderation decisions. To do so, they created an independent oversight board that cost them $130 million, which is more than their total spending on lobbying. If they could outright buy political influence, they would have Congress make rules instead, which would not only give them more distance, but would have the added benefit (for Facebook) of creating regulatory capture.

- Abortion rights got rolled back despite being overwhelmingly championed by billionaires. For example, Warren Buffet has donated over $1 billion to pro-choice charities, and Mackenzie Bezos has donated $300 million.

Of course, there are plenty of examples of large-scale outright corruption in American politics, but you're naive if you believe that it would be any better than in countries where you can bribe police officers.

avgcorrection
1 day

Naivity is clinging to your just-world worldview based on mere examples, not empiricism.[1] Of course individual rich people don’t get what they want all the time when they have to compete with other rich people. And sometime the popular resistance is so overwhelming that they don’t get their way.

[1] https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/perspectives-on-poli...

Maybe it’s the verb “buy” that you are railing against? Well of course. You can’t buy 2,000 units of political influence for 200MUSD. You got me there. You have to take your chances in the short term. But you could on average get a nice return on your investment in the long run.

> Abortion rights got rolled back despite being overwhelmingly championed by billionaires. For example, Warren Buffet has donated over $1 billion to pro-choice charities, and Mackenzie Bezos has donated $300 million.

There are rich people who are in favor of anti-abortion.

> Of course, there are plenty of examples of large-scale outright corruption in American politics, but you're naive if you believe that it would be any better than in countries where you can bribe police officers.

How about you look at the comment that I was replying to. Rejecting federal-level political corruption as “not endemic” since it’s not petty bribery is ludicrous.

Aunche
21 hours

Elites do tend to be... elite. That's not what I was objecting to. My contention is that this has little to do with corruption. Rather, the government happens to be a bloated, inefficient bureaucracy. Regular people have little interest in navigating it, while the rich can pay others to do so.

IMO, the biggest problem is that people are increasing confusing politics for entertainment, so you get a lot of noise that doesn't translate into policy. I view vague disdain towards things like lobbying as one such example of such noise. It's always, "a corporation got something that I don't like. Must be legalized bribery!" There is never any discussion to the myriad regulations of lobbying or even have any clue how it operates. People don't even realize that lobbying money is primarily an operating expense that pays for the work of lobbyists.

I found one section in the paper you shared interesting:

> A possible objection to populistic democracy is that average citizens are inattentive to politics and ignorant about public policy...

> But we tend to doubt it. We believe instead that—collectively—ordinary citizens generally know their own values and interests pretty well, and that their expressed policy preferences are worthy of respect.

This was written before the massive wave of populism. We got Trump and his attempt of protectionism. The UK got Brexit. Both were overall opposed by the rich as the largest corporations are multinational. Neither achieved the goals that the populists were hoping for. Later, we got the stimulus checks and student loan changes, but both of these were easily hijacked by lobbyists thanks to the economic ignorance of the the population. Small business owners managed to convince people that PPP forgiveness money would go towards keeping people on payroll. Universities and lenders are delighted that forgiveness and income-based repayment will increase the willingness to pay for tuition, which would make them more dependent on private loans.

> There are rich people who are in favor of anti-abortion.

Not really. You have rich people who are against abortion as the means to achieve an end. An example of this is Trump coincidentally becoming against abortion when has he was preparing for his presidential campaign. You don't see any billionaires as dedicated as Buffet is to pro-choice.

> How about you look at the comment that I was replying to. Rejecting federal-level political corruption as “not endemic” since it’s not petty bribery is ludicrous.

The comment was saying that corruption isn't endemic in America... because it's not particularly endemic. There isn't a fundamental difference between petty and federal corruption. If you can pay a police officer to forgive a traffic infraction, a billionaire can easily pay the entire police department to look the other way when they hire thugs to block a polling station.

Aerroon
1 day

This reminds me of the article[0] by Scott Alexander where he makes the case that Americans spend less money on an election cycle than they spend on almonds. You would think that if money ruled the day then a lot more would be spent on politics.

[0] https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/09/18/too-much-dark-money-in...

avgcorrection
1 day

“Scott Alexander” demonstrating that he’s a high-IQ idiot once again.

> In this model, the difference between politics and almonds is that if you spend $2 on almonds, you get $2 worth of almonds. In politics, if you spend $2 on Bernie Sanders, you get nothing, unless millions of other people also spend their $2 on him. People are great at spending money on direct consumption goods, and terrible at spending money on coordination problems.

Okay, so develop that train of thought just a tiny bit more inside that fermented brain of yours. Coordinating problems are a lot easier if you are “the ten percent”, “the five percent” or “the one percent” depending on how you wanna slice it: you have more resources and you are fewer people. But if you are the rest? Massively more difficult. First of all, who do you trust? People have fallen in and out of trust with Sanders these last six years many times. Is he just a puppet of the Dems? Is he “controlled opposition”? What if a Sanders run just amounts to “raising awareness” that a lot of Americans are struggling (“duh”, they said) as he capitulates to his “good friend” Biden/Clinton/etc.?

And what about all the other supposedly grassroots organizations and things that sprouted in his wake? Were they legitimate or just astroturfs? Were they perhaps legitimate and then got coopted?

Is federal-level electoral politics even a viable path for the “99%”? Or will such efforts always get thwarted by team red and team blue? Does it help at all to get 100 candidates almost-elected?

And what if a few of them do get elected? Will they just adapt to the machine (i.e. become “corrupted”)? What’s the critical mass of progressive or whatever else candidates that need to be elected at the same time in order for that not to happen?

- - -

The supposed fact that more money is spent on almonds is not in itself evidence of any damn thing, and this high-IQ idiot knows that his clickbait headline proves nothing. You don’t spend more on a problem then you need to.

- - -

Just an aside but it’s curious that “Scott” didn’t find data on something useless like ice cream. Almond is good food, and you need food to live. Some kind of food.

> So when I hear stories like that Americans could end homelessness by redirecting the money they spend on Christmas decorations, I don’t think that’s because they’re evil or hypocritical or don’t really care about the issue. I think they would if they could but the coordination problem gets in the way.

Upper-middle class nerds love these “X would end Y” statistics. It means that they can just throw money at the problem and don’t have to think about “politics”, because politics is too messy for them (too much people, too few numbers and stats). But ending homelessness is inherently a political project because you have to find the root cause for it. You can’t just give them money to rent apartments if they just become homeless in two years again. So what’s the issue? Is it mental illness? If that then you need to support the mentally ill directly, not just indirectly once they become homeless. Is it unaffordable rent and home ownership? Then that needs to be fixed. Except there are probably interests that would like rents and home prices to stay at their current levels. Competing interests i.e. a political problem.

> This is one reason I’m so gung ho about people pledging to donate 10% of their income to charity. It mows through these kinds of problems.

Right. These EA people exist, so I’ll just donate to them and let them figure it out. They have big IQs after all. Then I read in the yearly report that they spent 80% of my 10% on BS like safeguarding against run amock general AI. Sigh.

“Scott Alexander” can pat himself on his own back all he wants for his 10%. But he’s confusing two different things. Politics is bigger than turning in your sworn 14 units of good-doing acts for the year–it’s about more than “being a good person”, or publishing “facts” about Christmas decorations and homelessness. If you are working two jobs and can still barely get by then the only long-term fix might be to help change some policies. And maybe five people that you know are in the same boat and so you donate your precious “almond money” to some politician that you think isn’t a fraud. You’re in a different situation than some upper-middle class blogger who world builds for a hobby.

noasaservice
2 days

- Do you have to personally slip a DMV official several times the actual required fee whenever you get your license renewed to get them to even look at the application?

No, but rich companies can use "We are a job creator" to get permission to ignore taxes for terms that are effectively "indefinitely". We all end up paying more for the top-end bribes. You just don't see it.

- Do you have to directly bribe police officers to get them to respond to your complaint? If you were pulled over for a traffic offence would your assumed way out of it be to personally slip something to the police officer?

If you don't have property of any serious concern, the police do not care. Nor are they required to fill out a police report. What ends up happening are the middle and upper classes with houses get the respect (no bribes), and the lower monetary classes get laughed at.

- Do truckers have to routinely bribe state officials when crossing state lines?

- Do local officials routinely illegally procure land via the government purse for their own personal use?

https://www.forbes.com/sites/instituteforjustice/2021/10/25/...

So yeah, it's called Asset Forfeiture, and is how you get abuses like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._$124,700_in_U...

Why need bribes when cops legalized blatant theft?

kelseyfrog
2 days

It's easy, just redefine terms so that the same activities can be legally/socially classifiable as lobbying rather than corruption and the problem is solved - Voilà, no corruption!

themitigating
2 days

Yes, you're right and if you'd like to change that vote for the people that will make it illegal

DangitBobby
22 hours

Setting aside the fact for a second that our system requires us to vote strategically instead of based on our actual preferences, I'm pretty sure there's no one I can vote for that is seriously championing making it illegal. But even if they were, there is so much corruption and money on the side of keeping it legal, I can't imagine they'd be able to get it done in the face of the enormous opposition. Telling people to vote is a bit of a copout in the face of systematic corruption.

themitigating
14 hours

"Setting aside the fact for a second that our system requires us to vote strategically instead of based on our actual preferences"

You can band together to make lobbying illegal. What I feel like your saying is that you don't like that you have to vote for someone whose views don't always match yours but that's how it will always be. If I'm not understanding you correctly please let me know.

"But even if they were, there is so much corruption and money on the side of keeping it legal"

Then vote to make it illegal. What is the alternative? A monarchy in which the same corruption could occur? A revolution which causes massive suffering for a long period of time and then you form a new government that is a democracy which faces the same issues?

kelseyfrog
21 hours

who are they? id even be willing to share my district info if that would help.

themitigating
2 days

Winning requires money which is considered free speech.

somenameforme
2 days

It's a perceptions index, carried out by a Western organization, polling almost exclusively other Western organizations, that deemed Western nations are just awesome. I am not suggesting that e.g. China is not corrupt (nor that Denmark is not awesome), but I am suggesting that it's as objective as poll of Eastern organizations on the same question - which is to say, not at all.

The unfortunate thing is that corruption is in many cases all but impossible to prove or quantify. And in some cases there is a mixture of corruption and genuine interest. As one example a war that furthers national interests, but also ensures rich rewards for companies of which you will receive returns from (indirect or otherwise) ends up in a balancing act of trying to measure immeasurables - perceived self interest vs perceived national interested.

andrepd
2 days

> The Asian countries that do match the west for low levels of corruption (Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore) largely have a very obvious trait in common - wealth.

Okay, then an honest comparison would be wealthy "individualist" countries vs wealthy "collectivist" countries (not that that distinction is quite meaningful, but still). Poor countries have higher corruption that rich countries, that much is obvious and not very interesting.

JacobThreeThree
2 days

CCP China is your example of an uncorrupt culture?

From my personal experience in China I can tell you that it's standard practice to hand paper bags full of cash to government officials (and CCP members) in order to get government contracts.

Xi targeting his political rivals with "corruption" charges hasn't changed this culture.

AyyWS
2 days

My family member who runs a company in China avoids bribes by pretending to be a dumb American.

gtirloni
2 days

> In other news, a former CCP top government minister was just sentenced to death for corruption

Maybe it's a cynical view, but I wouldn't be surprised if anticorruption laws were used to get rid of someone for other reasons, especially by corrupt people.

pphysch
2 days

That's certainly possible -- lawfare definitely happens in the West (Russiagate, anti-Corbynism and Lava Jato come to mind).

But if it was simply about political maneuvering, death penalties are wasteful and severe. So that suggests that there is more to it.

woodruffw
2 days

Well, I don't think the intended message of The Wire is "adopt the CCP's anti-corruption measures." That's editorialization on our part as viewers.

I also don't think the show has a particularly anti-individual message: individual police officers and drug dealers are repeatedly shown as struggling within a collectively dysfunctional system, and individual members of each group are shown as themselves corrupt while being protected by the collective. The show is more nihilistic than proscriptive, other than the small handful of "successes" that occur (like Hamsterdam).

pphysch
2 days

The Wire is radical, but not quite radical to the point of openly questioning the foundations of modern American culture. That would be crazy in ~2002.

woodruffw
2 days

Right. The show is even conservative, by some measures: the police are generally shown deference by the show's writers (even when individual cops are openly characterized negatively).

SoftTalker
2 days

Western culture is not built only on individualism and freedom, it's also built on Judeo-Christian morality. The Golden Rule, the Ten Commandments.

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other. -- John Adams

Our culture is predicated on not elevating individualism and freedom above responsibility. They go hand-in-hand. When morality becomes relative, and "whatever feels good" is the standard of acceptable behavior, you see the sort of social decay that is happening all around us.

vore
1 day

In practice, you see a lot of these self-professed Judeo-Christian moralizers engage in irresponsible individualist behavior so I don't think paying lip service to religious morality is really effective here either. The overriding factor is still the structure of incentives rather than adherence to a specific moral code.

pphysch
2 days

American culture has transformed over the centuries, but the most recent dominant form is hyperindividualist. Ayn Rand over Jesus Christ.

Just look at our most recent leaders -- a couple of highly corrupt guys with no serious religious conviction.

pdonis
2 days

> If your culture elevates individualism and freedom above social responsibility and harmony, then your institutions will be systemically corrupted by selfish individuals.

While I don't disagree with your general comment, I would point out that the words you are using can be interpreted multiple ways. For example:

"Individualism and freedom" does not have to mean shortsighted individualism and freedom. Any thinking person should realize that social cooperation and wealth creation through specialization and trade is in their individual, "selfish" interest. And that being the case, any thinking person should realize that "individualism and freedom" must include supporting and preserving social institutions that facilitate social cooperation and wealth creation through specialization and trade. That is what "Western culture" is supposed to be about, and the fact that many Western cultures don't do a good job at this doesn't mean "individualism and freedom" are bad; it means that many Western cultures have forgotten what "individualism and freedom" is actually supposed to mean.

Conversely, "social responsibility and harmony" does not have to mean preserving social institutions that facilitate social cooperation and wealth creation through specialization and trade. The Soviet Union's leaders and official media outlets like Pravda were constantly talking about "social responsibility and harmony", but what they meant by that was absolute obedience to the Party and its leaders, even as those leaders killed millions of their own people and sent millions more to gulags. Similar remarks could be made about the present government of China; yes, they claimed that they executed a former top minister for "corruption", but given their history, what that actually means is that this former top minister was purged for reasons which most likely had nothing at all to do with actual corruption in the sense we use the term.

upsidesinclude
2 days

And because it was the CCP, we'll never know if that news is state propaganda or truth... .

He might have just been the honest fall guy who promoted too much social harmony to the detriment of his superiors lifestyles

behaveEc0n00
2 days

The US relies on private propaganda to normalize attitudes to its goals. Given how chummy politicians and “journalists” and corporate owners are off camera it’s laughable to think there is a real separation of power.

Our biology evolved for thousands of years before language was invented. To suggest our language influences our biology is nonsensical. Our biology influences language. Propaganda is all about setting a biological mood not embedding a specific chant. Media had been stoking the right moods until the internet enabled an unfiltered emotional meta-mind.

They intentionally wrap news in titillating music and graphics. It’s all research based effort in the fields of behavioral economics, public relations, etc.

An educated minority are leveraging that education against the majority to optimize for themselves. “Because that’s the history of our society!”

upsidesinclude
2 days

For a time, propagandizing US citizens became illegal.

We lost that in the Obama administration. Not that it would have mattered....

Language does certainly influence biology and vice versa.

I agree we are living in precarious times and there's no benefit to promoting an equally opaque system built for an elite class

behaveEc0n00
2 days

Cable news has government officials on spewing government talking points all night. That’s government propaganda. Suuure it’s not “official” but wtf does that matter when it embeds itself in our inner monologues?

Corporations that own cable news and are given all the money with no strings by the government; hardly an Obama era shift.

Making it illegal is meaningless.

PaulDavisThe1st
2 days

> American culture, and to a lesser extent Western culture in general, encourages this kind of corruption. If your culture elevates individualism and freedom above social responsibility and harmony, then your institutions will be systemically corrupted by selfish individuals.

Which culture are you suggesting does not get systematically corrupted by selfish individuals?

JacobThreeThree
2 days

American culture is much less corrupt when compared to the rest of the real world, instead of being compared to a hypothetical corruption-free world.

BlargMcLarg
2 days

You gonna back that up? The "rest of the world" contains various European, Asian and even a neighboring North American country with plenty of readers who would be delighted to see your evidence

fragmede
2 days
JacobThreeThree
2 days

It's my opinion based on my personal experience in various countries around the world.

There's plenty of corruption in Europe, Asia and Mexico/Canada.

avgcorrection
2 days

> American culture is much less corrupt when compared to the rest of the real world,

Does this mean that it’s the least corrupt place in the world?

canes123456
2 days

I doubt there less corruption in the CCP than in the US. Corruption is an easy justification to arrest or kill anyone in China.

Also, corruption is absurdly high in Venezuela since they moved away from individualism and toward collectivism.

ep103
2 days

You've gotten a lot of responses here. I think there's a chance you were trying to say something similar to what I said here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=32953111#32954329, but given the brevity of your reply, were unable to articulate fully. Might be worth taking a look : )

nemothekid
2 days

>If your culture elevates individualism and freedom above social responsibility and harmony, then your institutions will be systemically corrupted by selfish individuals.

In other words, if you just allow the powerful to do what they want in the name of "harmony", you will have no corruption. That the CCP experiences no corruption is laughable.

themitigating
2 days

That death sentence shows me that China cares about stopping corruption. When was the last time an elected official in the US was severely punished.

projectazorian
2 days

> In other news, a former CCP top government minister was just sentenced to death for corruption. Incentives at work.

This doesn’t mean much. Selective enforcement of anti-corruption rules is a common method for national elites to eliminate potential rivals. It’s especially common in regimes with pliable judicial systems.

spywaregorilla
2 days

Is that why all the local governments are collapsing under their off the books debts?

maerF0x0
2 days

> People fixate on the numbers

I've had an unsettled feeling for some time that managers, perhaps many execs, are mostly liabilities... Far to often I have seen someone categorize _something_ as not a _something else_ to ensure it doesn't raise any suspicions of their superiors, manipulates the metrics etc. It's lead me to wonder if investment/effort is better invested to cultivate ethos more than measurement.

Ethos like "We do what's best for the customer" or "We fix errors when we see them" instead of "Did we hit the SLO?"[1] or "How many open bugs are in the system"[2]

Anyone else felt this, or am I just the burnt out, toxic, outlier?

[1]: people start to categorize things as not downtime

[2]: People start to chastise those who open JIRA bug tickets as "too many!"

cjcenizal
2 days

> People start to chastise those who open JIRA bug tickets as "too many!"

I know what you mean. I've seen teams treat a backlog's growth as being a root problem. They responded by closing issues with the explanation "We probably won't ever get around to this" or by creating scripts that will auto-close any issue after a set period of time.

I'm still on the fence about whether this is productive or not. I guess it depends on the team's context. A growing backlog indicates strong demand for features and/or many defects being found in the product, at a rate which outpaces the team's ability to respond. My instinct is to make changes to any part of that system but the backlog itself, since it is real data with real value. My strong opinion weakly held is if you manipulate this data, you're just putting blinders on.

ip26
2 days

The best argument I’ve heard in favor of culling like this is that if it wasn’t worth doing two years ago, and wasn’t worth doing one year ago either, it’s probably never going to be worth doing. In this view, legitimately good ideas that never quite make the cut are dangerous because they eternally distract & waste time for no value.

As a methodical person it’s hard to digest, but I’m starting to find it holds water.

maerF0x0
2 days

Except that it might have always been worth doing, but the team is underfunded. ie, the ROI on doing it was positive/high

Azkar
2 days

Yep. I've found that the ticket or tech debt isn't important until it becomes on fire and must be fixed ASAP. It doesn't matter that the possibility for the bug to happen has existed for 2 years, the organization doesn't find the investment worth it until it's burning down the house.

maerF0x0
1 day

which seems like such a blatant failure of leadership. If I had 1000 ways that I could invest $1000 at a 20% return this year and like 5% recurring[1], why not hire 2-3 engineers get them done and keep the extra $200k plus have a better future?

The most compelling argument was opportunity cost against features (eg the time spent on feature work would return 100% per year or whatever seems enticing) ... That seemed to me to only suggest we should do _both_ (get more capital in the market if required)

[1]: some amount of recurring makes sense so long as things like customer retention, brand value, maintenance costs are factored in

rufyfhrj
2 days

I feel like the dynamic still holds true. If the team was underfunded two years ago, and still underfunded one year ago, they will probably still be underfunded with regard to tackling the problem now. The ROI argument seems similarly dubious since it might hold true for things with high upfront costs but otherwise if the perceived ROI had been high then a team short on resources would have already prioritized it.

Comment was deleted :(
pdimitar
1 day

That only works if the programmers buy the managers' narrative -- and that's not a given. Usually it's the opposite.

Managers very often only optimize for them to look better in front of their superiors, to the detriment of the underlying team's efficiency, and very often to the detriment of the product itself.

People pulling the blanket towards them is not a new thing.

throwawaysleep
2 days

One of my teams is going through this currently. Our Scrum Master keeps on wanting to erase our backlog as she thinks it makes us look bad to management.

deathanatos
2 days

"JIRA bankruptcy", is what I've heard it called. It's an idiotic way to sweep problems that still exist under the run. I have no idea why its so hard for suits to just ignore a list of bugs that isn't even intended for them in the first place.

… I also had to fight (and mostly lost) the argument that "time to page getting resolved" was not meaningful. People would be chastised for having pages open too long. But, then, e.g., one page was because the underlying problem was real, and it was a problem in our cloud provider — one that our cloud provider couldn't fix. (They wanted us to just abandon the instance of that service we had, and migrate everything out of it. Problem was is that that was difficult, and expensive. Several months of work. We ended up having to do it. But that destroys a Goodhart "mean time to resolve" metric.) But people can process "you have to look at it on a case by case basis, and see if there was a good reason for it", as, Christ, that requires thinking!

There was also metrics around hitting SLO, and the SLO was bananas. In theory, we were supposed to do a post-mortem if we missed the SLO. But the SLO got missed so often that, in reality, nobody did the PMs. (And in fact, it effectively killed the culture of "writing PMs" that had existed… and now problems don't really get addressed.)

… and I agree about the managers/PMs. When engineering has no authority, the resulting crap isn't surprising.

johngalt
2 days

It is the inherent conflict between authority and accountability. It's unfair to be accountable for something we have no control over, but if we have control over it, we can unduly influence it. There is no bulletproof answer to this problem. Fixes are mostly about allowing for the possibility of success.

rufus_foreman
2 days

Goodhart's Law: "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure."

musingsole
2 days

> managers, perhaps many execs, are mostly liabilities

Reminds me of adages about parenting and children as well as government and the economy: more can be done to screw it up/make it worse than can be done to control let alone improve it.

The role should be defined by restraint and temperance.

photochemsyn
2 days

It's funny how corruption gets defined and re-defined by so many competing interests.

Milton Friedman, for example, famously said that 'Corruption is government intrusion into market efficiencies in the form of regulation.'

This mentality, when applied to the food / medicine / drug trade, has some curious results. On one hand, it suggests we eliminate all criminal penalties for buying, selling and consuming all drugs, while on the other the normal criminal penalties for theft of drugs would apply. Note also that sellers could adulterate their product (no regulations, remember?) in any way they saw fit as long as it maximized their market efficiency (profit margins, basically), based on the belief that customers could shift to other producers if they didn't like the product.

The real result of criminalization of drugs, rather than regulation of drugs, is that a black market develops, characterized by violent conflicts between sellers over access to that market, control of production and supply, etc. This is why decriminalization makes a lot of sense, coupled with things like public health campaigns aimed at reducing usage, bans on advertising drugs and marketing drugs to children, etc.

danjoredd
2 days

My main problem with Milton Friedman's philosophy is the assumption that people actively investigate every product they consume. For example, if something says baby formula on the tin, most reasonable people will believe that it is baby formula, and not something terrible like drywall dust.

If the parent investigates the company and realizes that the company is fraudulent, of course they will switch to a company that is safer for their child. But will they do the same for every other product they take into their home? Of course not! There isn't enough time in the day for that.

Even if its just a little bit, some government oversite has to happen to protect the rights of consumers. Not to the point where it keeps the free market from innovating, but enough to make sure people aren't eating literal plastic and putting radium in makeup.

ip26
2 days

Even most libertarians support strong contract enforcement, because it lubricates the free market. You can have a free market without, but binding contracts make it work much more efficiently.

Truth in labeling & advertising should be grouped into that same category, in my opinion. It makes the market work better by reducing friction.

deckard1
2 days

I see the difference being passive vs. active. The FDA would be active. Getting a bad product, finding a lawyer, filing a court case, getting a court date, going to trial would all be passive. It requires every individual to seek justice in an expensive manner. In addition, timing. Wouldn't it be better to avoid needless injury and death, than having to seek justice after the fact?

Once a bad product enters the market, the market can be forever tainted. Look at China and baby formula.[1] No one trusts the baby formula there now. A few bad apples spoils the bunch. You could look at this as the FDA actually protecting the market by keeping it at a trusted quality.

[1] https://qz.com/1323471/ten-years-after-chinas-melamine-laced...

Upgrayyed_U
2 days

This is where the entire libertarian ideology starts to fall apart for me.

Who does "contract enforcement" in a libertarian society? Who enforces "truth in labeling and advertising"? How do you scale those things without introducing regulation into the market?

Edit: grammar

pessimizer
2 days

It's not falling apart. It's expressing its final form, which is an all encompassing world government with the duty of tracking the ownership of every molecule of matter on the planet, and of enforcing every contract without judgement on its contents or the conditions under which it was signed.

Libertarians are people who believe that markets are natural, like trees. Markets are not natural, they are arbitrary sets of rules that people agree to abide by in order to have the agreements they make within those rules enforced by whatever institution is dictating those rules. Markets are an endorsement by the powerful, where at the least the loss of that endorsement will get you ejected from the market, but at the most it could get you broke and imprisoned.

So the fact that they don't recognize what markets are, and think that they can be free (either as in speech or beer) forces them to make governments the ultimate market, but their desire for unlimited freedom and autonomy (or rather limited only by your property) forces them to deny governments the right to make rules about their own markets.

Instead, they revert to natural rights, natural freedoms, natural markets, social Darwinism, etc. Mysticism. That's why when you scratch a Libertarian for long enough, you eventually either find a blood & soil racist or an ex-Libertarian.

didericis
2 days

A libertarian would argue that competing services like consumer reports emerge to handle that kind of cognitive overhead.

Libertarianism does not imply atomization. There’s nothing preventing people from creating larger groups of people that facilitate cooperation. It just has to be voluntarily entered into.

Discussions about when to grant authority to enforce things not specified in an explicit agreed to contract is where the debate about the problems with libertarianism belongs, imo.

the_jesus_villa
2 days

I'm not libertarian but the obvious solution is consumer advocacy & reporting groups and such, who certify products as "legit". They do the hard work of figuring out which products are good. But unlike the FDA, they have a market incentive to do this effectively.

I don't propose this belief, but it's the libertarian solution to the problem you pose.

avgcorrection
2 days

People like Friedman are either paid mouthpieces or complete loony-toons ideologues. That’s the only way to make “libertarianism” make sense.

MichaelCollins
2 days

> Note also that sellers could adulterate their product (no regulations, remember?) in any way they saw fit as long as it maximized their market efficiency (profit margins, basically), based on the belief that customers could shift to other producers if they didn't like the product.

They could add addictive drugs [back] into 'normal' products without telling people, to get people hooked on their product, which would 'force' competing products to do the same or risk irrelevance.

For instance, Coca Cola could quietly reintroduce the cocaine to their already poisonous concoction, making it even more addictive. Pepsi would be incentivized to follow suit.

SyzygistSix
1 day

At this point, adding cocaine to Coke would be adding value. It might even be worth buying then. And probably surprisingly popular if put to a vote.

xerox13ster
2 days

And they'd use crack or amphetamines as the "pep" in their name implies.

didericis
2 days

At an even more meta level, whether interests are even competing is itself something subject to differing definitions.

Take the word “regulation”. According to wiktionary, it comes from “regō”, which means “to keep straight, direct, govern, rule”.

Direction requires a desired destination. We would like to steer the environment away from highly adulterated/dangerous drugs, away from harmful drug use generally, away from territorial violence, and away from drugs being sold to children.

Those that advocate for “deregulation” as well as decriminalization are really advocating for emergent peer to peer regulation instead of regulation by fiat. They generally think the best way to keep systems accountable and moving in the desired societal direction is for individuals to have as much freedom and direct feedback as possible about the consequences of their actions, which they argue leads to better individual decision making due to that better feedback.

Those that advocate for government regulation generally think it’s easier to keep systems accountable if you concentrate the most competent and responsible people into an explicit, transparent enforcement organization, which they argue leads to better decision making due to that better guidance and enforcement.

The former worry most about ineffective or bad actors in government enforcement systems distant from feedback/information. The latter worry most about ineffective or bad actors in the populace that are allowed to grow without coordinated enforcement/ability to organize.

I don’t think a lot of the arguing over different solutions to drug problems are really arguing about incompatible approaches, they’re just focused on different parts of the problem.

In my personal view, I think the BIGGEST problem from all camps is a lack of desire to really confront the core issues/invest the time and effort needed to actually solve these problems, which is a lot more about sitting down with people in very unpleasant situations/doing a lot of very difficult therapeutic communication, dealing with personal anger at irresponsible people, dealing with our disgust, not liking what we see reflected about ourselves, not liking to admit how much we actually DON’T control, not liking to acknowledge our own hypocrisies/how we contribute to the problem, not liking to acknowledge vast experiential differences and how important close connections are, not liking to admit how many people don’t prioritize themselves or others and are ungrateful/resentful, etc. We’d like to simply “get someone else to deal with it”, whether that be the government, the immediate family/individuals themselves, an app, a magic pill, some kind of secret drug problem destroying machine, etc.

RajT88
2 days

> The department measures crime in terms of felonies, so they show a reduction in crime by reclassifying felonies as misdemeanors, thus letting violent criminals off the hook.

This threw me for a loop.

I asked a contact on the PD of a neighboring town some years back how Naperville, IL is consistently the lowest general crime rate and "Safest Town in America", and this was the answer.

Having lived there and heard the stories about police interactions with victims, I believe it.

gbjw
2 days

“I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.” - William Blake

digdugdirk
2 days

Just wanted to comment to share how much I was struck by this quote.

And as a bonus, William Blake himself seems like a delightful research rabbit hole to fall down later today.

germinalphrase
2 days

Here you go, friend: http://blakearchive.org/

Note that the search identifies both text and images within the illuminated texts.

dredmorbius
2 days

For excellent insights into the use, misuse, and gaming of statistics, from the source, I'd strongly recommend David Simon's lecture "The Audacity of Despair", presented at UC Berkeley on 10 December 2008. It's long at 70 minutes, but quite solid.

I'd seen this several years before watching the series, and it was this lecture specifically which sold it to me.

<https://yewtu.be/watch?v=nRt46W3k-qw>

The bit on statistics starts at about 8m20s.

Nutshell: If you want to find out where the dirt is done, parse some statistics.... I learned as a reporter to start despising statistics and to regard anything that was ever cited to me in advance of an argument as dubious just because somebody was pulling it out and using it. I was that cynical about it. As I got better as a reporter I realised that as soon as any of our institutions create a means of measuring how things are going in terms of quality, someone will run behind them within the institution to destroy that statistic as a meaningful measurement of anything.

There's exposition around this both ahead and after, and again, there's a ton of meat in this talk.

deathanatos
2 days

One of the … things … that the article gets towards is that there is "make customer's problem disappear" and "fix the root cause/bug". And so many companies fail to make the distinction.

E.g., Azure: there's customer support, but they only do the "make customer's problem (or really, the ticket) disappear" side of it. Woe be unto you should your problem be caused by a bug in Azure: they have no means of dealing with that. Eventually the ticket dies — usually because my patience has limits — and I am sure they count that as a "win". Ticket closed, after all … even if my problem is no longer a problem b/c I've just abandoned ship.

And the amount of software/stuff out there with no means to report bugs/defects is rather astounding.

l0b0
1 day

As a senior, I consider "keeping us honest" one of my primary tasks:

- It's not done until at least it's in front of the customer.

- Estimates are useful, but not for any of the obvious reasons.[1]

- Understand lints before silencing them.

- If it's important enough to get a name, spend the time to give it a good name.

[1] https://mdalmijn.com/11-laws-of-software-estimation-for-comp...

lamontcg
2 days

> Want to know what/how/why things are broken in your organization? Ask people!

When senior engineers tell you they can't do anything without more headcount, maybe consider believing them.

Joel_Mckay
2 days

Corruption is within all power structures without exception... It is often not a character trait as many wrongly assume.

In general, compartmentalizing a few clear limited-scope areas for each team member is an effective management task. In this manner, there is direct accountability when something goes wrong, and a user-base focuses attention on a flaw... a growing number of regression tests helps some do their job properly... rather than sidetrack the rest of the team.

This can be brutal to laggards getting hazed, but a blessing to senior staff now avoiding spending half the day reverting garbage. ;)

WalterBright
1 day

The Wire is a great story. Star Trek is a great story. RomComs can be very entertaining.

But taking life lessons from fiction is a serious mistake. I made those mistakes many times. They're fantasies dreamed up by writers, and being fantasies, those imaginary worlds work in the way the writer thinks things ought to work.

The real world doesn't work that way. Real interactions among people, if they have any relationship to movie plots, is simply accidental.

This is a large reason why I have slowly gravitated over the years towards reading history books rather than fiction. History is real, and it doesn't work like fiction (a beginning, a middle, an end). The life lessons in them actually work.

For just one example, Star Trek is the fantasy of the benevolent dictator, embodied by Kirk, and his idiot savant advisor, Spock. I love ST as much as anyone, but the benevolent dictator is a pure fantasy.

d0mine
3 hours

> History is real

Imagine, how the current world events will be described in history books. If you think it is "real," you are blind.

History is far far away from the rigor of physics, to pretend describing the real world. At least, fiction books do not pretend telling the truth.

oska
1 day

I agree with your point about history being a great instructor but the fiction examples you gave were pop fiction, that are deliberate fantasy (and thus disastrous to think they can teach you life lessons, a point that has been repeatedly made from at least as early as Don Quixote).

How about Shakespeare though?

WalterBright
1 day

Literary fiction isn't any different. Why should it be? (Shakespeare in its day was pop fiction for the masses.)

The examples I cited may be deliberate fantasy, but people still regard them as life lessons. For The Wire, Hahvahd even had a course of instruction on drug crime using The Wire to teach. I was amazed that people defended this.

P5fRxh5kUvp2th
1 day

The wire was written by people who worked as actual police. The stories in the wire obviously aren't true, but when I found that out it made complete sense. There's just something more real about the wire than most other shows.

WalterBright
1 day

Wouldn't it be better to read actual accounts of criminals, rather than fictional accounts? I.e. make it a documentary?

I bet many documentaries would make far more compelling cinema than any made up story. For example, "Empire of the Summer Moon". What a great epic that story is. And it really happened.

P5fRxh5kUvp2th
1 day

It must be noted that documentaries are still interpretations.

Having said that, I understand what you're saying. I could talk at length about what I took away from Ordinary Men by Christopher R Browning. For example, german soldiers on the trains taking jews to death camps ran out of bullets because they were shooting them as they tried to escape the moving train. Think about how many damned bullets that is.

OTOH, The Wire to me is entertainment. It's one of those shows that hugely believable and once you learn the writers have actual on-the-ground experience, you start to understand why it seems so believable. That doesn't mean you don't recognize it as entertainment.

WalterBright
1 day

> It must be noted that documentaries are still interpretations.

Yup.

I agree The Wire is fine entertainment. More than that, nah. I read more than once that real mafioso started emulating the quirks, behaviors and characteristics of movie mafioso.

Being a nerd myself, I know that movie nerds have little or nothing in common with real nerds, but they are the popular misconception of nerds. Has anyone ever said to you "say that again in English"? Not to me.

P5fRxh5kUvp2th
1 day

I interpreted kirk differently, he was a man who loved his ship and his companions more than himself.

noasaservice
2 days

I work in system engineering/architecture. My job is some of hardest to even tell if we work.

I've been back and forth with multiple managers and C levels that any metric chosen can and will be gamed. But they again and again want some quality assessment to use.

For a while, they used tickets closed. So we all started submitting BS tickets to do tasks like "send email". You all can imagine the inanity of that.

From my experiences there is no good way to track... Well, perhaps having a grab bag of conflicting performance metrics, and then choosing one at random? (But again, even that can be gamed)

NAHWheatCracker
2 days

At the level you're talking about, it sounds like you should use similar metrics those managers use. Revenue/expense of the systems they oversee or business value of initiatives under your purview.

Not that that would be useful for anyone. Managers will get away with saying they "grew revenue by $10 million per year" or "reduced expenses by 20%" despite that being mostly BS unconnected with their actions or choices. I don't see why you couldn't get the same level of credit.

upsidesinclude
2 days

The solution is to never reveal the metrics used and to rely on many metrics to evaluate.

Singular metric evaluation, like the growth model insanity, is how we end up with massive companies making no profit but somehow subsidizing their services to users.

deckard1
2 days

In my experience metrics aren't used to evaluate. They are used to justify decisions management has already made.

Management will never tell you, but they almost certainly have hidden metrics (or, simply, biases). But the discovery of such hidden metrics would destroy the image of the egalitarian work environment they like to promote. Much like in The Wire, you come to a conclusion and then work backwards with the metrics to find your support.

upsidesinclude
2 days

Yeah, I can see that.

Golden parachute, just gotta get some nice stats on the resume

hot_gril
2 days

I'm convinced at this point that the real way to manage an organization is to only manage some small number of people you can track in your head, maybe 10, and they do the same. Instead, I see all these insanely complicated work-tracking tools that are somehow supposed to tell someone levels up who I've scarcely met how I'm doing.

You could look at my team's tickets all day and never understand how things are going. Or you could interview anyone on the team for 5 minutes and get a real answer. Massive projects are inputted as full-on DAGs of tickets, but the real tracking is done in a way simpler text doc or spreadsheet somewhere, or in someone's head.

wmeredith
2 days

"they again and again want some quality assessment to use"

It sounds like they want something quantitative not qualitative. They both have their place, and one sort of measure without the other is missing a big part of the picture.

brundolf
2 days

My main takeaway from this is that I need to go watch The Wire

sammalloy
1 day

> My main takeaway from this is that I need to go watch The Wire

Please do. It took me a few months to get through it, but it’s worth it. The show broke many of the old conventions that were expected in a television series and paved the way for much of what we see today.

bergenty
2 days

I was looking for a solution to the problem posed but found none.

cjcenizal
2 days

Hi, author here! I wish I had a solution to this problem! The idealistic side of me wants everyone to "think critically". Of course if all humans were critical about the decisions they made and their effects on the systems around them (organizations, society, environment), we probably wouldn't have wars and global warming.

So that won't scale beyond the individual, which might be acceptable from a Stoic perspective but I doubt that's the solution you're looking for.

Oren Ellenborgen shared my post in today's edition of Software Lead Weekly [1], and in his summary of the post he suggests using Key Failure Indicators (KFIs) to counterbalance Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). From what I understand, the idea is that you observe metrics of success but you also observe metrics of health, and take action if the former starts degrading the latter.

For example, if you want to deliver features more quickly, you might measure the time between a change is submitted for review and the time it's deployed. But if you're concerned that this could degrade quality, you could also measure the number of defects that are identified. If defects increase as delivery time decreases, this indicates the success metric is causing some undesirable behavior. Hope this helps.

[1] https://softwareleadweekly.com/issues/513

dredmorbius
2 days

You might care to listen to David Simon's own take on statistics and measurement:

<https://yewtu.be/watch?v=nRt46W3k-qw>

kashkhan
2 days

The system of employment is the problem. Drug dealers and police are employees and they cannot win. While the system has power employees have none.

Mike, Bubbles, Bunny, Omar, Hauk, etc are not employees or get out and they win or at least get out to live their own lives as they want.

Independent Entrepreneurship is the only way out. It may not work, but you have a chance,

robocat
2 days

> Independent Entrepreneurship is the only way out

Entrepreneurs are systematic slaves too - that is one point of The Wire.

Everyone is embedded in a society, a system, and our choices take us down paths that control the rulesets that apply to us. You can escape certain rules, but you get other rules in exchange (in my experience).

kashkhan
16 hours

true, but i am not ready or able to call for the end of westphalian nation states, capitalism and the new world order.

woodruffw
2 days

There are many valid interpretations of The Wire's themes, but I dare to suggest that "hustle grindset" is not one of them.

kashkhan
2 days

Its not hustle grindset. Its be out and do what you want.

Wage slaves usually work harder to survive. You could go out and live in a van and not hustle at all.

woodruffw
2 days

These are your views, which are not particularly reflected in the show: Bubbles spends most of the 4th season being brutalized because he's "too" independent. Hauk is tossed around by political winds, while his friend Carter advances while doing good police work in the context of a larger department. Omar, as another commenter point out, just dies. Bunny is spiked and left out to dry by the bosses, and is mostly characterized by his own nihilism in the 3rd and 4th seasons.

Not all survive, and those that do do not particularly thrive.

hitekker
1 day

People see what they want. That goes double for shows people don't understand but are popular for reasons they also don't understand.

The article that OP posted, for example, is a shallow application of the Wire's insight onto software engineering. The solution it recommend is to try to be more aware about gaming metrics, which is as useful in the long run as the phrase "don't be evil". It's telling that most of the comments here don't invoke the article and instead are talking about their own interpretations of the Wire.

kashkhan
2 days

like i said, there is only a chance on the outside. inside there is no chance, but most people are happier on inside and too afraid to leave.

lupire
2 days

Bubbles is a desperate addict. Omar is dead before 40 and was hiding his sexuality.

These are not successful lives.

kashkhan
2 days

Everyone dies. Better to live free and die young then have a long life as a slave.

MichaelCollins
2 days

All addicts are slaves. Don't glorify it.

kashkhan
2 days

better an addict than a slave to another man.

MichaelCollins
2 days

I assure you, it is better to be a housed and healthy 'wage slave' than a homeless heroin addict.

UncleMeat
2 days

Herc is not a character to be emulated. He is a brutal and vicious officer when he is a cop and when he gets out he does private security for an organization that causes ever more harm to society.

kashkhan
2 days

He goes to a better job. Terrible person, but successful employee.

UncleMeat
2 days

I'm really not sure that is worth looking at positively.

inquist
2 days

Strive to clarify fundamental goals.

Consider possible second-order effects of policy decisions.

Reevaluate intermediate goals after observing their effects.

pastacacioepepe
2 days

It's an analysis and I find the comparison with The Wire quite interesting. There is no rule or law requiring a solution to be proposed with every analysis of a complex problem.

spaetzleesser
2 days

"There is no rule or law requiring a solution to be proposed with every analysis of a complex problem."

Exactly. I much prefer a good analysis without a proposed solution.

musingsole
2 days

> We just have to consider every decision's second-order effects.

I read that as "we just have to stop behaving in the characteristic way we're predetermined to forever behave in"

The "corruption" related to rotations arises from the obvious failings of the system and a need to both work around it enough to get by and cope with it enough to not go insane.

So long as the incentives remain perverted, so will the behavior.

cjcenizal
2 days

Ah, thanks for pointing out that ambiguity! The point I intended to make was that people make decisions that lead to rotations and other systems. And those people need to consider their decisions' second-order effects.

mdip
2 days

OH how I can relate to the sentiment expressed in "Rise of the Rotation".

On the surface it sounds perfectly reasonable. As the author explains, it's falls apart quickly. There's still going to be people that will make the argument that, given the author's specific example, that "it gives everyone a more complete understanding of the product to work that way". It's wrong (I'll elaborate if required). But I can hear it.

This affected me in a way, though, that is even more unreasonable -- "The Wire" rotation example, it'd be like ... I don't know ... having the person who designed the guns the department uses participate in the "murder investigation rotation".

Due to a company acquisition, I found myself kludged into an Architecture Engineering team ... I was/am a developer. This happened because Infrastructure[0] didn't want to lose their developer (me[1]) and my role at this place over 17 years had expanded to the point that I fit on any team and no team. I gathered I was put in Arch due to my elevated title (and a misplaced concern of insulting me) and because that specific team because it had "unix guys"[2], they often know how to write shell scripts, which are kind of ... oh, and this other guy is a developer in Ops, too -- completely different language/framework/tech -- but ... it quacks like a duck?

They had a two-week on-call rotation between 5 (now 7) men. I managed to hold off being worked into it for half a year using the same argument: "I support write software in .NET for Windows, your legacy team supports software on Unix/Linux. I expect to be woke up at 3:00 AM if anything of mine fails, all the time and nobody on your team is qualified to log into the box let alone troubleshoot it ... and vice versa".

The first few days of my first on-call rotation consisted of being woken up at 2:00 AM for some server-or-another, me finding someone capable of resolving it, then finding their off-hours contact info, and about 20 minutes later apologizing to them, repeating what I was just told and going back to sleep. My toddler (at the time) could have done that part of my job. I repeated my difficulties in "actually being useful on-call" to my manager during that week at our 1:1 (to which I was brushed off, again), but included my difficulties in "finding people to call" ... he must have thought he found an easy win, there, because he nearly cut me off half-way through with a "Just call my cell if you run into trouble with that." So my new on-call work flow became: (1) Wake up at 2:00 AM to a ringing phone, (2) Write down the ticket number, (3) wake up my boss to find out who to call, (4) thank him, finishing the call off with "He's more likely to answer if you call, would you mind relaying the ticket number to him for me?" It reduced my TTRTB (Time-to-return-to-bed) from 10-15 minutes to far less than 5.

That insanity was the biggest factor in why I left but not because of the apologizing/dislike of it all. My boss knew he was operating in a tricky spot. If his boss knew I was even slightly unhappy with being on-call, I'd be taken out and he'd have taken grief. His options were (a) explain to the rest of the team that "this guy and this other guy don't do anything resembling your work so rather than add them as one more delay to waking you up (or worse, breaking something), they're going to manage on-call for their own apps amongst themselves and not be part of our on-call" or (b) continue to accept calls from me at 2:00 AM reminding him of how dumb it was to put me on call. He chose the latter. And as I evaluated their (much larger than the company I had come from in the merger) IT operation, I saw a pattern of "because that's how we have always done it" and similarly ridiculous -- astronomically expensive at times -- operational choices. That culture was pervasive throughout IT because the merged company had far more people (2:1?) that made up the new organization because -- despite the companies having similar IT services/quality -- we operated better ... with far fewer people.

[0] We basically had Infrastructure/Architecture and Development. Technically Infra/Arch were two distinct VPs reporting to whatever the title was of the interim person considered "the C-Level over IT" during those months of the integration.

[1] And I wanted nothing to do with "Enterprise Development" at this place.

[2] I wrote nothing that ran directly on Linux/Unix at that time.

frozencell
1 day

Russia is corrupted, US is corrupted, EU is corrupted, the rest who don't comment is corrupted... Power is in individuals.

frozencell
17 hours

Downvoters have time to downvote but not to care about the little desperate people they are downvoting.

frozencell
1 day
everdrive
2 days

The wire is open to a wide range of interpretations because it was so realistic. I believe the director is famous for saying that both liberals and conservatives have commented that the Wire shows how things "really are." Presumably, it's realistic enough that people can read their own narratives into it, just as we do in real life.

AtlasBarfed
21 hours

An entire blog post about the wire discussing "juking the stats"....

And it doesn't mention "juking the stats"?

29athrowaway
2 days

Change the world before the world changes you.

formerkrogemp
2 days

Believe in the false dilemma or else?

nathias
2 days

the game's the game

dirtyid
2 days

IMO Yuen Yuen Ang's unbundled corruption index is useful model for evaluating different types of corruption, all are "bad" but not equally so.

TLDR in this 2x2 matrix:

https://blogsmedia.lse.ac.uk/blogs.dir/57/files/2021/02/Typo...

And how countries stack up:

https://i0.wp.com/oecd-development-matters.org/wp-content/up...

Article: https://oecd-development-matters.org/2020/06/25/unbundling-c...

draw_down
2 days
Haleyborough
2 days
throwawaysleep
2 days

I’ve personally learned in life to focus on excelling at being corrupt.

civilized
2 days

Okay article, but lacking depth, especially in the recommendations of what we can do.

> We can carefully design our metrics and think critically about the behaviors we expect them to incentivize

In The Wire, the metrics are carefully designed. Homicide clearance rate is a great, practical metric. Everyone is thinking, very critically, about the behaviors they expect the metrics to incentivize.

> We can extend self-awareness and critical thinking to all decisions made within an organization.

In The Wire, everyone is very self-aware and thinking very critically about the decisions made within the organization.

> We can look beyond metrics by qualifying success and failure.

In The Wire, everyone is looking beyond the metrics.

The problem with the BPD in The Wire isn't a lack self-awareness and critical thinking. It's that so many people are using their self-awareness and critical thinking to maximize their self-interest rather than the mission of the organization.

hitekker
1 day

You're being downvoted for pointing out the make-believe that we want to believe in. Like you said, the recommendations are fantasy. The author is unwilling to delve into the darkness within the game, so his solution is essentially "bring in smarter people like myself".

"Be critical or be corrupted" is a platitude that doesn't mean much other than "think harder". Ironically, it's the kind of phrase that lends itself well to corruption: it sounds good, feels good, but isn't defined, easy to abuse, and so eventually becomes another card in the game.