Zelenskiy promises to swiftly confront Ukraine corruption


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There’s sort of a feedback loop with corruption where incentives are misaligned with goals.

To make an analogy:

Say you ran a school and your district is handing out funding to the schools with the highest scores and the most educated students. So you come up with this really rigorous curriculum and some air tight exams at the end of the year. Some real genius level education. Your students know that they’re competing for the top spots at the university so the ones with the best scores have a shot at better futures. In theory this would create an environment that pushed people towards academic perfection; but in reality these incentives are not aligning with your goals.

So your students are all competing for top marks. Your curriculum is absolutely packed to the gills because you want them to learn everything they can, the problem is they’re human. Lots of systems are designed with results in mind but fail to address that people have limitations. People burn out, people have other things going on in their lives, people need rest and joy and creativity as much as they need work. But your system is meant to crank out grades because that’s how students get into university and that’s how your school gets funding.

There are a few ways to get grades. Studying hard is one of them. But you can innovate as well. Why hit the books if you can work out a more efficient way of learning? Hell, why learn if you’ve found a way to cheat effectively. The system rewards lots of right answers, not learning per say. Fuck it, why bother cheating? If you’ve got enough money just bribe your way to the top? If the school is competing for money, and your parents have money, and one party gets more funding and the other gets into a prestigious university via this exchange then it seems that you’re both acting as incentivized by the system in place.

Now you’ve got a corruption problem. Anyone who can afford to pay to win is going to pay to win, anyone who can get away with cheating is going to cheat, the minority gifted students who don’t burn out can study their way to the top, and he have nots are going to be at a disproportionate disadvantage which is only going to encourage more bad behaviour to meet the system’s demands. The corruption creates a feedback loop because as so long as it continues to function everyone in a position of power within it gets what they want, and if it collapses everyone goes down with it.

The solution is really tricky. Getting rid of every bad egg is just going to restart the feedback loop. Key figures within it do need to be replaced. But more importantly an independent oversight body needs to be established with its own set of incentives encouraging unbiased scrutiny, and the incentives of the entire system need to be re-done in a way that aligns with the desired goals of the system.

It’s a lot of work, and to do it in a way that reaches every level of society the way Ukraine needs to is a Herculean task. But I’ll give the country a cautiously optimistic vote of confidence. I didn’t think they’d last very long in a war against Russia nearly a year ago so I think it’s unwise to underestimate what Ukraine can do.

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