By William K. Black
Quito: March 4, 2015
Deirdre McCloskey has provided another proof of our family saying that it is impossible to compete with unintentional self-parody. She did so in the guise of a review in the Wall Street Journal of two books on corruption. McCloskey’s thesis is that only ethics, not institutions, matter when it comes to stopping corruption.
“All that works in the end is ethical change, urged from the mother’s knee, the pastor’s pulpit, the judge’s bench, the schoolmaster’s lectern. It is fruitless to propose ‘mechanisms’ or ‘institutions’ absent an ethical desire in enough of us to do good.
We need sermons, which is to say instruction from our mothers and movies and imams about How to Be Good. Sarah Chayes and Jay Cost provide ample texts for the sermons. Indignation on the ground, if pervasive, stops corruption. The books give us cause for indignation, surely. But the rest is up to us, or our mothers teaching us at their knees.”
McCloskey proposes that we create “pervasive” “indignation” demanding an end to “corruption.” She suggests that the key is the consistency of that ethical message to “do good.” We need “sermons” from clergy, mothers, teachers, judges (during sentencing), and the media and movies that reinforce the message that the public must achieve a “pervasive” loathing of corruption and a commitment to “stop” it.