In the Biblical book of Proverbs, two odd sayings, almost identical, appear just a few verses apart: “Diverse weights and diverse measures are both alike an abomination to the Lord” (20:10); and “Differing weights are an abomination to the Lord, and false scales are not good” (20:23).
Why is God getting upset about kilograms and centimetres?
Quick translation: God hates there being one standard for the rich and another for the poor. God hates unfair systems. And corruption wrecks good systems.
The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in the 1870s and 1880s, at the time projected to be the longest bridge in the world, was tremendously difficult. New challenges faced the engineers and construction workers at every turn, sometimes with lethal risks: at least 20 people died due to the project, including its architect, John Roebling.
It was nonetheless possible to build such a bridge and for it to be safe for the millions who would later cross it. Washington Roebling had taken over from his father as chief engineer, and he knew that if everyone just did his or her part, his father’s design would triumph.
But corruption threatened the bridge’s very sinews.
The trustees of the bridge project, some of them doubtless in the pay of William M. “Boss” Tweed and other shady officials, maneuvered to keep the Roebling family out of contracts for the crucial cables on which the success of the bridge literally hung. The Roebling company’s cables were among the best in the world, but “conflict of interest” was hypocritically sounded at the trustees’ meeting, and the contract went instead to J. Lloyd Haigh of Brooklyn.
Haigh’s company, however, mixed in bad wire for good in the cables. Roebling’s son Washington, who took over as chief engineer when his father died, found out about the defective wire—but not in time. To this day, the Brooklyn Bridge has corruption running right through it, with weak wire in place of strong. Only the Roeblings’ specifications to make the cables six times stronger than they had to be has kept everyone safe. The cables are, now, four times stronger than necessary.
As Canada’s SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal proceeds to light up the evening news, our American cousins are dealing with a scandal in college admissions. Dozens of rich Americans (and at least one Canadian) have been swept up in an operation exposing bribery and fraud on a massive scale as parents sought to put their unqualified children into chosen universities. And since those universities have limited spaces, those unqualified children pushed out those who had earned those spots instead.
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