This entry is part 87 of 98 in the series Principles

Principle 90


The Principle of Corruption has caused a deterioration of the good, the beautiful and the true since the beginning of human consciousness.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate it is with a copy machine. Take a page out of a magazine having both a picture and text and make a copy. Now compare this to the original. You’ll notice the copy looks pretty good, but not as good as the original.

Now make a copy of the copy and compare that to the original. After this you see the quality is noticeably off. If you keep making a copy of the last copy eventually the text will not be readable and the photo will be unrecognizable.

This principle is also illustrated in a game that many of us have played, called Chinese Whispers. You have about a dozen people gather around in a circle and the one starting things rolling comes up with a phrase and whispers it to the person on his right. This person then takes what he thinks he heard and whispers it to the person on his right. This continues until it reaches the last guy.

The original person then tells the group what the beginning phrase was. For instance, it may have been, “The cow jumped over the moon.”

Then they go to the last person who heard the whispered message and he announces what he heard after the phrase has been whispered about a dozen times. It is almost always so far from the original that the whole group laughs with amusement. The simple phrase is usually turned into something nonsensical like, “The pig rolled over the balloon.”

This principle of corruption has caused many problems for us humans over the centuries. Let us take the words of Jesus, for example. They were not written down in the four gospels of the New Testament until 40 years or more after Jesus left the scene. One can only wonder how accurate was the memory or sources of the writers.

But that is just the beginning of the problem. We do not have an original manuscript of any of his words. The originals were copied and then copied again and the closest we have to an original is maybe the twelfth copy at best.

In making copies the scribe may have come across wording he did not like and changed it to something he thought was more in line with Jesus’ thinking. Other times a scribe would add in a note that seemed to clarify the text and then the next guy making a copy would include that note as part of the text.

When you consider how much corruption was probable we are lucky indeed that anything that Jesus said, as recorded in the Bible, still makes sense.

That is probably as great of a miracle as him changing the water to wine.

Corruption of text is just one of the problems created by this principle. In recent times we can be pretty sure we have the originals of many teachers and innovators, but the way they are interpreted has been corrupted.

For instance, we have the original wording of the Constitution of the United States, but judges and politicians have altered their original intent in many cases to law that would make the Founders roll over in their graves.

Numerous religions have been started in the past couple centuries and we have pretty accurate copies of the words of the founders, but most of them have been substantially changed from the original intent and ideas.

This problem also occurs in businesses. Numerous great business have been successfully launched using innovative ideas that appeal to the public. Then, after the founders retire the new guys come in and make changes until a bureaucracy is created that rivals the government and the business become stagnant, sluggish and uninspiring.

So, what causes this corruption to take place?

There are two basic causes. The first is human imperfection.

The second, and main cause, is that it is the nature of people to want to make a difference and improve things. A wheel may work perfectly, but if you place a do-gooder in charge of it he will want to add his own ideas about improving it.

When the son takes over the family business he has a natural inclination to not follow the same procedures that Dad did. He wants to put his own imprint on the company so he makes changes – and often these changes are not for the better.

So it is interesting that much of the corruption that occurs that fogs up the vision of an inspired idea comes from people of good intentions who think they can make a difference.

Yes, there are times that a person can make improvements, but more often than not when changes are made to a program that works well things go down hill.

A real improvement that is recognized as a quality change is not really a corruption. A true corruption is one where changes have occurred yet the people involved teach and act as if they are still supporting the original ideas. For instance, a church may drift away from the teachings of its founder yet proclaim to the flock that they are in total harmony with the founder.

So how do we prevent destructive corruption? There are several things that can be done.

(1) The initiators of a good idea must make sure their plans are spelled out clearly so those who come after them will be able to become aware of any alterations.

(2) A system needs to be created that allows the most intelligent and capable people to assume leadership. This way the changes made will most likely be an improvement rather than a corruption. Big problems occur when an incompetent person is placed in charge who then changes many things to his liking.

The least corrupt organizations are those that have an effective process for choosing effective leaders.

Democracy must be built through open societies that share information. When there is information, there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there are solutions. When there is no sharing of power, no rule of law, no accountability, there is abuse, corruption, subjugation and indignation.

Atifete Jahjaga

A reader comments:

JJ fails to mention greed as the dominant source of corruption. The US foreign policy is corrupt for reasons of greed:


That is because altruistic people corrupt just as much as greedy people.  Most corruption occurs because some do-gooder thinks he is making an improvement when he is not. The problem is more related to ego than greed.

Copyright 2016 by J J Dewey
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