March 05, 2008

The seven deadly sins test for institutional corruption

Here's the idea: you pick an institution of choice, and run through the list of the seven deadly sins/cardinal virtues. The ratio of vices to virtues exemplified by the institution is a rough (and tongue-in-cheek) indication of how corrupt the institution is.

For example, let's take the American news media. I'll bold the one in each pair exemplified by the media, and give a little explanation of what the pair means, just in case you haven't seen Se7en lately.
  1. Pride or humility

    Pride is the desire (or belief) to be better and more important than others. Pride can be exemplified as vanity (pride of appearance or physical beauty), as pride of intellect, or by some other standard of dessert.
  2. Envy or kindness

    Envy isn't a desire for material goods (that's greed, covered below). We don't have a good English term for this vice, I think; the German Schadenfreude is better. Roughly speaking, envy is the desire (satisfied or unsatisfied) for others to suffer.
  3. Wrath or forgiveness

    Wrath is an uncontrolled hatred, anger, or desire for (disproportionate, unjust, or undeserved) revenge. The media don't typically exemplify this vice directly (except when it comes to immigration and powerful women), but do encourage it.
  4. Sloth or diligence

    Sloth is laziness, but also idleness and a lack of zealousness more generally -- being unwilling to pursue and lacking enthusiasm for one's vocation.
  5. Greed or charity

    Greed is the desire for material goods, especially wealth. The object of desire need not be owned by another, and greed need not be accompanied by a lack of concern for justice (although it often is).
  6. Gluttony or temperance

    Gluttony is the wasteful over-consumption of consumable goods, especially food. Gluttony is exemplified both in the act of over-consumption itself, but also in anticipating over-consumption. Like wrath, gluttony is not typically exemplified directly by the news media, but it is certainly encouraged in viewers.
  7. Lust or chastity

    Strictly speaking, lust is any form of love for another creature that is given precedence over love for God. As such, it's more of a `qualitative' vice than the `quantitative' ones of greed and gluttony. But today we tend to think of lust as another `quantitative' vice -- an excessive desire for sex, in particular. I prefer to understand lust as the objectification and commercialisation of love, especially sexual love.

Final tally for the American news media: 7-0.


keith said...

im posting a link to your blog!
If my readers follow it you will have two more readers.

keith said...

I forgot to shamelessly plug my own blog!

Maybe Ben can read it for the first time in years.

MosBen said...

My standard for dessert is chocolatey-ness!

And Keith, I read you blog today!