Cops and Robbers
The Corruption Contagion

Corruption, one of the most pernicious threats to global security and prosperity, thrives because it hides in plain sight. A provocative new book by Laurence Cockcroft helps us get around the thorny question of how to define it.

Published on: February 11, 2014
Vladislav Inozemtsev is director of the Moscow-based Center for Post-Industrial Studies and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC.
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  • Anthony

    “Corruption: always involves the acquisition of money, assets or power in a way which escapes the public view; is usually illegal; and is at the expense of society as a whole either at a grand or everyday level – a specific kind of entrepreneurship. ”

    The reviewer informs that author asserts corruption has been not only controlled in West but also pretty much eliminated – quite an assertion given human inclination generally. That said, reviewer frames corruption in dichotomous fashion. Yet I see connection to both Fukuyama’s kin selection and reciprocal altruism and Acemoglu and Robinson’s inclusive and exclusive political/economic institutions. Corruption is here to stay – we’re writing about human behavior here. So, unless mankind improves (ethically) expect corruption to exist in social arrangements as humans comprise and make up institutions/systems. The question becomes can societies manage corruption to preclude systemic omnipresence (human life is less an affair of institutions and systems then of people and an interplay of motivations and abilities).

    • Andrew Allison

      History teaches us that corruption is as innate as the use of force. Power simply permits it to be utilized. The posting of this article on the day that Nagel was convicted should be proof enough of this.
      There are a couple of steps which could be taken to limit it: first, limit the combination of power and the length of time for which it can be executed (term limits); second, punish it so severely that most will be deterred. Violations of the public trust (corruption resulting in the improper expenditure of public funds) should be both a RICO offense, i.e., triple damages, and result in a bar against ever holding a position in government at any level, elected or salaried.

  • Boritz

    Politicians today often act as entrepreneurs, surround themselves with sycophants and deputies, and so navigate the entire political process as they would any commercial business.

    • Anthony

      For pubpols, profit is inherent in the choice – The Basic Deal.

    • Andrew Allison

      I beg to differ. Simply put, their overriding objective is to secure reelection and continue to enjoy the perquisites of elected office. Smells like profiteering to me.

      • Boritz

        You are correct. My concept of ‘profit’ is too much influenced by the college of business administration.

  • Abdel Boughazi

    When corruption becomes entrenched, it undermines the development of state authority and its institu-tions, leaving a weak state with potentially more space for insurgents to operate.

  • Jim__L

    The idea that corrupt politicians are going to end up in Hell, and the idea that anti-corruption crusaders are doing God’s work on earth, probably explain a large amount of why the West has been successful in combating corruption — even in the West’s decision that this was a problem to be solved.

    You can be a good person without Scripture — but without Scripture you start to forget what “good” means.

  • Bruno_Behrend

    Government pensions procured by campaign donations, corn subsidies, windmill subsidies, bullet trains, IRS investigations of political opponents, and every unnecessary government job all qualify as “corruption.”

    America is drowning corruption. If the legal standard were “preponderance of the evidence,” I could make the case that Illinois has a “constitutional government” guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.

    Corruption is everywhere, and so ubiquitous that we fail to even notice its nature as we acquiesce to it.

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