Time to change the way we tackle vice

What does the Gospel teach us about corruption? First of all, that it crops up in even the best of families. Let us consider the time when, according to the Bible, Christ was betrayed by Judas. If one of the 12 disciples, who were friends with the holiest individual in history, turned out to be corrupt, can we realistically hope for a better quota of morality among some 500,000 civil servants in Greece? And if a disciple is capable of betraying the son of God in exchange for 30 pieces of silver, then should we not expect that at least one in 10 politicians or public functionaries will betray the son of someone far less respectable, and for a considerably larger sum? Finally, if the certain prospect of eternal punishment did not hinder Judas from acting as he did, then will the fact that «dereliction of duty» is now considered a crime rather than a misdemeanor be likely to act as a major disincentive to those drawn by corruption? Besides, 2.5 million euros – the amount that a Competition Commission director allegedly asked for as a bribe from a company under investigation – is more than enough to buy the best legal representation to change this crime back into a misdemeanor. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to be said for moral schooling, but Judas had this privilege – and from one of the best teachers ever. Punishment can also be very useful, but often does not actually curb corruption, it only increase the stakes. In Greece, we have only witnessed these two methods of tackling corruption – attempting to instill morality and meting out punishment. The two approaches may have both failed but we still persist with both. It is time we realized that we are drowning in laws and measures. Sometimes it seems as if new laws are introduced purely so that a minister can invoke them to prove that action is being taken. In any case, our purely prescriptive approach toward tackling corruption reduces the effectiveness of our laws. The more measures we implement, the less effective each new measure becomes, or so it seems. For instance, the practice of submitting the pothen esches declarations of assets was productive at the outset, but now half the country is submitting such declarations with the result that not even the politicians are being monitored.