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"The Temperance Movement, The Anti-Corruption Movement and "Selling with Noble Purpose" "


By the early 1700s, low-tech industrial science had doubled and quadrupled the ratio of alcohol to water in cheap drinks made from fermented grapes, sugar cane, potatoes, corn and other grains. This, in turn led to mass drunkenness, social unrest, sickness, death, and poverty throughout Europe and Europe’s overseas colonies.

In the late 1700s, the Temperance (Anti-alcoholism) Movement began its campaigns and crusades to wipe out or at least slow down the scourge of drunkenness.  Anti-alcohol campaigns attacked the evil ways of drunkards and of those people who sold them drinks.

In 1842, in the USA, an up-and-coming 33-year old lawyer, named Abraham Lincoln, prepared to give a speech in public. According to him, Temperance activists were often preachers, lawyers, hired agents, and community leaders who tended to call down the wrath of God against drunks and pubs, and to summon up the devil, fire and brimstone as their punishment.  In his speech, Lincoln noted that these anti-alcohol campaigns and solutions had been tested and tried for many decades, and that they had consistently failed to defeat or weaken the grip of alcohol on society. His audience for this speech, however, was a new organization called The Washingtonian Society,  made up, in large part, of recovering alcoholics, who seemed to be succeeding where the anti-drunkard crusaders had failed.

Lincoln: The warfare heretofore waged against the demon of intemperance, has, somehow or other, been erroneous.  Either the champions engaged, or the tactics they adopted, have not been the most proper.  [Between these champions. . . and the mass of mankind, there is a want of approachability, if the term be admissible, partially at least, fatal to their success. They are supposed to have no sympathy of feeling or interest, with those very persons whom it is their object to convince and persuade.

. . . .

Too much denunciation against dram-sellers and dram-drinkers was indulged in.  This, I think, was both impolitic and unjust. It was impolitic, because, it is not much in the nature of man to be driven to anything; . .  and least of all, where such driving is to be submitted to, at the expense of pecuniary interest, or burning appetite.  When the dram-seller and drinker, were incessantly told. . . that they were the authors of all the vice and misery and crime in the land; that they were the manufacturers and material of all the thieves and robbers and murderers that infested the earth; that their houses were the workshops of the devil; and that theirpersons should be shunned by all the good and virtuous, as moral pestilences – I say, when they were told all this, and in this way, it is not wonderful that they were slow, very slow, to acknowledge the truth of such denunciations, and to join the ranks of their denouncers, in a hue and cry against themselves.

. . . .

To have expected them to do otherwise . . . was to expect a reversal of human nature, which is God’s decree, and never can be reversed.  When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, persuasion, kind, unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted

By the time that Lincoln was preparing his speech in support of “approachability” toward the offerors and demanders of alcohol, the 50-year-old anti-alcohol Temperance Movement had already gained several millions of followers.

The post-1977 Anti-corruption Movement has had similar success in developing adepts against corruption.  Although they began two centuries apart, both the Anti-alcohol and the present Anti-corruption Movement claim, probably correctly, that the menace they are facing leads to rampant crime, poverty and the destruction of society.

In his time, Lincoln was not saying that the Anti-alcohol Movement was wrong about the harm caused by alcohol, only that the Movement’s methods were inhumane and unsuccessful.  He clearly underlined the elements of the success of the Washingtonians as:

recognizing that human nature makes it either difficult or impossible to improve our behavior, when confronted with vitriolic personal attacks, especially when our “bad” behavior is supported by a subculture of other people in our own situation

  • recognizing and accepting drunkards (alcoholics) as their equals

  • relating to alcoholics on an individual basis, rather than taking a “them versus us” stance

  • using firm but kindly persuasion, rather than calling down the wrath of God and of the Law

  • acting as a trusted advisor rather than as the denouncer of evils.

So the question is, “Do the lessons from the early failures of the Anti-alcohol Movement help us to understand and correct at least some of the failures of the post-1977 Anti-corruption Movement?

As trusted advisors, and based on the serious creation and enforcement of Anti-corruption laws, Compliance lawyers are  now able to persuade their corporate and officer-level clients to comply with anti-bribery laws, based on the reality of increasing severity of criminal sanctions, civil and reputational damages, and the accompanying loss of time and income. 

So, too, should lawyers, and everyone else who finds themselves facing an extortionist government functionary, take advantage of this scary but precious opportunity to act as a trusted advisor in explaining to the extortionist the reasons why neither we nor our client will pay the bribe, and how worldwide conditions are already threatening their immunity and their illegally-gained assets, and finally how they can gain in other ways from withdrawing their extortion demands.

“SELLING WITH NOBLE PURPOSE”

When it comes to telling scary bribery stories, compliance officers, auditors and others will often pull out tales about the sales staff as being the loosest loaded cannons below deck.  And yet, just as medical science seeks its anti-viruses among the viruses in the petri dish, so too, should we look for anti-corruption methods in the same situations where bribery and extortion are brewing. It is among the front-facing staff that you can find the great problems, but you also should be able to discover at least a few participants who reach their company’s goals without paying the bribe.  As Lincoln, and lots of sales experts tell us, it is about persuasion, connection and trust, the three elements needed to sell your ideas; and, if your idea is to do business with a government without paying a bribe, then you have to understand how to sell that idea.  In order to persuade an extortionist that their best interest involves not filling their side pockets, then you need to be selling them something more meaningful than a bribe.

Although she does not specifically refer to anti-corruption persuasion in her small and excellent book, Selling with Noble Purpose (Lisa Earle McLeod © 2013, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.). the author underscores the greater importance of the seller’s own sense of what is important in life.  What is most important to sales people who consistently excel at selling is their desire to improve the internal lives of their customers.  As she says, “Top performers know the difference between purchase requirements and true goals.”

On pages 116-118 of Selling with Noble Purpose, the author lays out the “Five Categories of Critical Customer Information.”  For people who expect to find themselves in extortion situations, it would be a good idea for them to already have answered the questions laid out in these categories. 

In the extortion situation, it helps to see ourselves, not as enforcers, not as preachers, and not as finger-pointers, but as sellers and trusted advisors, placed there to help extortionists understand the imminent dangers of their position, and the potential for improving their lives by doing the right and legal thing in this particular situation.

In the mid-20th Century, the present Anti-corruption Movement began its campaigns and crusade to wipe out, clean up or at least slow down the scourge of Corruption.  Anti-corruption campaigns attacked the evils of bribery, the offering and acceptance of bribes, kick-backs and collusive relationships, and of those legal entities and individuals who extorted, bribed and accepted bribes.  To this day, the Anti-corruption Movement repeats the same epithets against bribers and extortionists used by the unsuccessful leaders of the Anti-alcohol Movement 200 years earlier, regarding the fatal harm caused to society, and the nearly absolute evil of those who continue to partake.   We now understand that alcoholism is an addictive disease, which makes it particularly difficult to “wipe out”. 

While there probably exist some types of addiction to the massive accumulation of money through acts of corruption, still, in most cases, today, extortion situations arise from an economic and social risk-assessment, that relies on false assumptions of security, and also on a lack of knowledge of other alternative benefits.  It is for the person facing the extortionist to clarify from the beginning that you cannot pay the bribe or submit to the extortion demand, but also to act as the trusted advisor and persuade the extortionist about the threatening reality of their situation and the benefits of withdrawing the extortion demand. 

Demonizing bribery, extortion, collusion, and other uses of government power for private benefit can be important for creating and sustaining the Anti-corruption Movement, just as it was for the Anti-alcohol Movement.  On the other hand, when it comes to changing the behavior of bribers, extorter and colluders who are generally protected by strong socio-politico-economic hierarchies, then the individuals who find themselves in extortion situations, should consider what worked for the successful Anti-alcohol Movement members. 

Marilyn Astudillo