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Corruption Essay

4519 words - 19 pages


"How plausible are the assumptions that the recipes for controlling corruption contain about the causes of corruption and the way corruption should be defined?"

Corruption is prevalent in all nations of the world, regardless of political system, development status or cultural heritage. Any solution that combats corruption must transform corruption from a high benefit, low cost enterprise to a low benefit, high cost risk. The literature on corruption presents multiple solutions or "recipes" for controlling corruption, the central ones being transparency, competition, privatization, and while less overtly identified by the scholars, personnel ...view middle of the document...

Both of these groups supported different types of regimes in different eras, but in return for favors from the government. In its most extreme form, corruption may extend to kleptocracy or "rule by thieves" meaning that any interaction with government officials will involve corruption, often without the pretense of honest service. Transparency International identified Former Indonesian President Suharto, Former Phillippine President Ferdinand Marcos, and Former Nigerian President Sani Abacha as three of the most self-enriching leaders of kleptocracies, each allegedly stealing billions of USD from their nations. Clearly, corruption is universal; however, this questions the normative assumption that corruption is an aberration from an otherwise appropriately operating political system.

While the literature agrees on the forms of corruption, it lacks agreement upon a standard definition for the term corruption, which ultimately limits its conversation. Tanzi (1995) and Transparency International (1995) present corruption as the intentional noncompliance with the concept of "arm's length," which means that personal and family relationships should not play a role in economic decisions by private economic agents or government officials. Nye offers a formalized definition of corruption referred to by many authors which states, "[c]orruption is behavior which deviates from the formal duties of a public role because of private-regarding (personal, close family, private clique) wealth or status gains: or violates rules against the exercise of certain types of private-regarding influence." Heywood (1997) suggests that any definition of corruption cannot be solely legal because those definitions are socially defined, and furthermore, they will not allow cross-national comparison. Philp (1997) argues that any definition of corruption presupposes the notion of an uncorrupt politics, which he and Heywood both agree to be a problematic, normative statement. However, Philp's argument also means that the definition of political corruption will vary by the nature of the political system, and he particularly cites the difference of application in democratic and non-democratic polities.

The literature clearly is debating what the definition of corruption should be, but centers around the ability of any definition to have cross-national analytical purchase while taking into consideration cultural context. This dual nature of any corruption definition is explained by Johnston (1987), who notes the division between formal and social definitions of corruption. He argues that corruption has a formal and legal definition in addition to the social definition based on how society perceives corruption. The corruption literature needs a generic definition or basic taxonomy of corruption, even if that definition or taxonomy is later proved to be insufficient. The literature needs a starting point and baseline to which to respond. As...

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