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What does Lincoln (the movie) Tell us About Corruption in Fragile States?

 

January 7, 2013

Doug Hadden, VP Products

Some of us tend to forget that so-called “developed countries” were once fragile states: civil war, death, destruction, poverty, political assassination. The movie Lincoln covers a fragile time in the History of United States. The lessons from the movie seem to contradict the rhetoric in the American press about what developing nations should do.

Lincoln Lesson Learned: the corruption means justifies the end.

The movie focuses on the manipulation to pass the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution to abolish slavery. Good political melodrama with some interesting vignettes in which a small cadre of manipulators cajole and bribe (with patronage appointments) to get the bill bases in the House of Representatives.

The movie shows Abraham Lincoln deliberately misleading congress. There’s also pressure put on a congressman by Thaddeus Stevens by manipulating election results. Just the sort of activity that gets condemned by the western press!

It looks quite quaint when expertly filmed by Stephen Spielberg. But, political corruption isn’t quaint. (My personal view is that political corruption in America has simply become more sophistication by being institutionalized through earmarks and Super PACs.)

Lincoln Lesson Learned: compare fragile apples with apples

The western press has a tendency to compare country corruption like apples to oranges. The context often makes little sense. Is Vladimir Putin any more of “dictator” than Lincoln was? (Lincoln ponders the extent of his powers in the movie.) Should we expect post-conflict countries to overcome regional income disparities and institute good governance at 10 to 100 times the speed experienced in the US or UK? Or after the French Revolution?

Shouldn’t we consider governance as a process that takes time? Shouldn’t we focus on governance achievements? And, shouldn’t we put it in perspective?

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Doug Hadden

Doug Hadden

Executive Vice President, Innovation at FreeBalance
Doug is responsible for identifying new global markets, new technologies and trends, and new and enhanced internal processes. Doug leads a cross-functional international team that is responsible for developing product prototypes and innovative go-to-market strategies.

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