"Corruption" is the new shrill
Similarly, I had a colleague tell me today that I shouldn’t use the “c” word, meaning corruption, since it would alienate potential allies. The logic is similar to arguments against being Shrill. He claimed that even if a lot of people in positions of authority engage in corrupt looking behavior, that doesn’t mean they understand it to be corrupt, so calling the corrupt will merely get them worked up to no useful end. They could well think they are doing the right thing and just be victims of cognitive capture.
I deeply oppose this line of argument. First, it assumes that decision-makers don’t recognize when they are taking ethically problematic actions. The people I know who have yielded to institutional pressures to do the wrong thing say they knew they were doing so and found a way to rationalize it. And I suspect even sociopaths know where the lines are. They have to do a better job of covering their tracks when their conduct is dubious.
Second, it assumes that it isn’t worth taking a firm position on ethics because it will turn off powerful people who have engaged in questionable behavior. Better to be less accusatory in order to have a dialogue with them. I don’t buy that because being indulging their justifications of their conduct helps preserve a bad status quo.
Remember when Krugman was literally the only voice of sanity in the early days of the Bush administration?
I haven't heard Krugman mention "accounting control fraud" lately, though, have you?