My dog can’t always be trusted. I came home from an early morning bike ride this morning to discover her slinking under the dining room table. I heard her jump down from something when I entered the house through the garage door, but the distance was too far for me to make out what she jumped down from. I ran through the house to check for blanket imprints and warmth on beds and sofas, but couldn’t find anything. She’s now cowering by the front door, and her entire demeanor suggests she thought the house would be empty long enough for her to do whatever she would only do when we are not home.
Having a dog for 7 years teaches you that all animals are capable of deception and selfish behaviour. In fact, survival depends on it. We humans like to tell ourselves that we are superior to beasts because we can reason. We tell ourselves that dogs and other animals behave without real thinking or a conscience, just via instinct. This is a vanity. My dog dreams, anticipates, remembers times, places, people, and behaviours. She feels emotional pain and disappointment, gets depressed on rainy days, and shows instant joy the moment my father walks in the house. We attach ourselves to our dogs because we realize we are like them. We may even envy them.
All animals, including humans, are capable of emotional behaviour and self-interest regardless of their DNA. However, we humans now vastly outnumber other animal populations. We have created complex societies via communication that require governance to balance competing interests. We have not overcome selfish behaviours. It is in fact the purpose of governance to balance them because they will always exist.
Left ungoverned all animals will horde and over-harvest resources and pollute environments. We know this is true within and between all organizations, institutions, and nations. Because every human behaviour contains self-interest, we must realize that every human activity contains corruption. I define corruption as the exercise of of self-interest. Corruption can benefit individuals, minorities, and even large majorities for short durations and long. But not forever.
Good governance is dependent on the battles between corrupted individuals and institutions of differing self-interests to arbitrate beneficial outcomes for varying parties over time. When some parties are disenfranchised from participating in governance decisions, outcomes naturally only benefit enfranchised parties.
When women were not allowed to vote by law, government policies benefited men.
When Africans were not able to defend themselves from Europeans, their lands were colonized and their populations enslaved.
When management and boards are compensated in equity without limit, their policies will benefit shareholders at the expense of employees and customers.
When data processors are able to consume information without compensating data subjects and providers, privacy and security will suffer because the interests of subjects are not included in the governance process.
Every process that involves humans has corruption. Good governance involves endless debates between varying interests to ensure that no one corrupt interest gets all the outcomes all the time. Human liberty depends on this tension.
The absence of debate can only produce the worst outcomes for the groups not involved in the decisions. If you are party to this kind of bad governance, complain, get out, or work to change the system. Waiting for other interests to benefit you without representation when decisions are made is not in your self-interest.
Despite all we have achieved in the thousands of years of “civilization,” we are still all animals.