Hypocrisy is Proportional to Organizational Size

I was reading about the United Nations this morning in an article published in Foreign Affairs 82, no. 5 (Council on Foreign Relations, September-October 2003): 67-80.  I’m training to think critically.  Lots here to consider…

Shashi Tharoor writes, “The United Nations (UN) guards the vital principles entrenched in its charter, notably the sovereign equality of states and the inadmissibility of interference in their internal affairs.  It is precisely because the UN is the chief guardian of both these sacrosanct principles that it alone is allowed to approve derogations from them.”

All sorts of analogies leading to contentious thought started leaping into my head. One should suffice to highlight the position Tharoor spoke of.  To whit, “Because the police defend the law only they can break it. ” It’s a small logical step to acceptance of dirty cops.

The UN also speaks of equality and democracy when sovereign states of varying sizes are dealt with equally.  The nation of 30,000 people gets as much say as a nation with 300,000,000 people.  So those people’s opinion is worth 10,000X as much as my opinion?  Uggh…

In the United States, Congress has a House of Representative.  The House of Representatives is more truly democratic than the UN plan, with vote proportional to population. However, in order to prevent mob-rule, we also have a Senate, where states are equal, similar to how the UN is set up.  The UN is a “senate-only” organization, without a parallel House of Representatives function.

When my contentious attitudes softened, I realized the UN could take such hypocritical views because, well.. there’s no organization peer or larger organization to hold it accountable.  A sovereign nation cannot dabble in this hypocrisy without international critique because other peers would not tolerate it.

Moving down one level, a business can get away with only so much hypocrisy until the national government holds it responsible. But listening to two company executives say, “A” and “Not A” minutes apart is an allowed level of hypocrisy.  Actually, you’ve already dealt with company hypocriscy trying to hook up phone service or internet when one service agent says, “service will be installed on the 5th” and the other agent says, “sorry it wasn’t installed because we meant the 11th”.  Or, ask the IRS the same question and see how the answers vary depending on which employee is answering.

Moving down another level, some people lie.  If the lie is big enough, they can usually be held accountable with court action — because the court is bigger than them.

Courts may help you some day — or impose hypocrisy on you because they’re bigger.  Think of the IRS.  You cannot hold it accountable for consistency.  It widely publishes a disclaimer that if you call for guidance, anything they say is irrelevant if you’re later accused of paying too little tax.

Within about 10 minutes, I realized that whether or not I like any level is irrelevant.  This is true for individuals, businesses, states, countries.  It’s not any one organization, per se that is good or bad. The deeper truth became clear.  Hypocrisy IS, more and more, as you move up to larger organizations.

What are some life applications of this realization? Work with individuals. Live a small-footprint life. Hire the good sole proprietor.

Next blog entry: homogeneity is opposite.  Scattered unpredictability is inversely proportional to organizational size.

About Brian

Engineer. Aviator. Educator. Scientist.
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