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Laws Cannot End Corruption


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A decade after his passing, the celebrated doctor of law, Ignacio Burgoa Orihuela, continues to be one of Mexico's most studied and cited legal scholars and a man whose opinions are of superb reputation.

He once said, "In Mexico there has been corruption in all sectors of society. In government, in the police, in citizens, and in unions, etc." He also asserted, "Corruption is the source of the violence that we suffer in our cities." 

The late Dr. Burgoa Orihuela was so very right.

Until now, the only weapon we have had against corruption was the law. If we look at the political campaigns in Mexico, both parties and candidates, it would appear they are more concerned with demonstrating how corrupt their opponents are than in presenting plans for governance. Thoughtful proposals are entirely absent. The "3 for 3 Law," as it has come to be known, is more a plaything than serious anti-corruption effort. 

In the business sector, we discover almost daily another business that has amassed a fortune using the same tool as always: corruption. This is nothing new. It is the "modus operandi" that has always been present. What is new is the accumulation of cases that have been made public. The same is true in the naming and charging of corrupt individuals. It is of grave concern, however, the incredible impunity that even the most egregiously corrupt persons enjoy.

What is it that brings a person to be corrupt? And is that something we can fight?

Most people are skeptical of any anti-corruption system that does not include punishment. And they have a point. If those who commit acts of corruption are not punished in a visible way, impunity can become entrenched by becoming an incentive for others to behave the same way. Impunity and corruption in fact share a common denominator: Amorality. This amorality also saturates society at large, but few take note of it and fewer concede its importance.

Corruption is bound up in the desire to take advantage of the present moment and to worry about the consequences later. It shows a fundamental lack of respect for one's neighbor. Respect is a moral value. 

How do we encourage respect for others, and why single out "respect?" Because a lack of respect is what gives rise to "habitual compromise" in people. This "habit" is the subtle deviation from right action. It is a lack of internal maturity. Those who exercise this "habit" tend to view others as stupid or backwards. And so others, in their view, deserve to be treated as such. The "habitually compromised" person has a very individualized view of morality: it is relative.

Laws represent a moral system. In almost every legal system, laws reflect the Ten Commandments of the Bible in the book of Exodus. "Do not murder." "Do not steal." "You shall not bear false witness." "Do not envy." These are laws, or moral precepts.  These laws were given to the Hebrew people by their god Yahweh to protect humanity, people and property together. Those laws were carried around the world by Roman Empire and its legal system that, suffused in Judeo-Christian culture, dominated the world for centuries.

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