Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Conspiracy Theories vs. Institutional Corruption

An article in this month's Scientific American, titled, "Why Do People Believe in Conspiracy Theories?" reviews research done by University of Miami political scientists Joseph E. Uscinski and Joseph M. Parent as explained in their 2014 book American Conspiracy Theories (Oxford University Press).

Disturbingly, 43 percent of Americans without a high school education believe in conspiracy theories. The number only falls to 23 percent for those with postgraduate degrees. These conspiracy theories cross the political spectrum ranging from belief that President Obama was not born a U.S. citizen to Monsanto conspiring to destroy family farmers.

As defined by Uscinski and Parent, a conspiracy theory is characterized by: “(1) a group (2) acting in secret (3) to alter institutions, usurp power, hide truth, or gain utility (4) at the expense of the common good.”

So do I believe there is a conspiracy within the divorce industry to rob the innocent and reward the evil? Absolutely not. Just because the divorce system is institutionally corrupt does not mean that there is an organized group of people consciously acting to usurp power. A better analogy would be the culture of bribery that existed in many countries. It is culture not conspiracy.

Unfortunately, because it is a culture, those that commit the worst acts can justify their actions by telling themselves, "that is just they way it works." When Nelly Wince knowingly lies in court it is not part of a conspiracy. She just believes she is trying to get the best deal for her client. The fact that her ethical oath forbids her to lie and criminal law states that her actions constitute fraud don't even register with her because lying by lawyers in court is quite common. The fact that the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board took no action against her despite overwhelming evidence shows just how commonly accepted it is for lawyers to break the ethical oath.  This is similar to how gang members sometimes believe armed robbery, rape or even murder is just what people do to gain cred. 

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