Political Corruption: In and beyond the Nation State

By Robert Harris | Go to book overview
Save to active project


The idea of political corruption (II): the contribution of political economy

there is one human motivator that is both universal and central to explaining the divergent experiences of different countries. That motivator is self-interest…. Endemic corruption suggests a pervasive failure to tap self-interest for productive purposes.

(Rose-Ackerman 1999:2)

In this chapter we consider, first, the contribution of political economists to the study of political corruption. We show in particular the utility of Olson’s classic theory of collective action for addressing corruption, and advise anticorruption strategists to place less emphasis on ethical imperatives than on striving to create a consonance between public and private interests: in a fallen world it is generally more effective to address people’s worst than their best natures. Even this, however, is almost impossible to achieve in high-corruption countries, because if the organs of government are so thoroughly corrupted that corrupt behaviour is normal behaviour, what internal leverage can be brought to bear on them?

Second, we address the issue of rent-seeking, described by one of its leading theorists (Tullock 1989, 1993) as politicians’ pursuit of private interests when such interests conflict with public duty. We accept this definition but argue that rent-seeking, even of this extreme kind, is but an extension, albeit quite possibly a grotesque and deplorable one, of normal political behaviour.

Third, we introduce the subject of economic liberalization, a policy considered by many to be conducive to lowering levels of corruption. Liberalization, according to this line of argument, drives out corruption by forcing the rigours of the market into economic transactions previously subject to distortion as a result of monopoly state activity. This occurs by squeezing out the non-productive capital involved in bribe payments, contracting corruption and so on, ensuring, in a process of economic Darwinism, the survival of the fittest and most efficient providers. Conversely, where state economic intervention is extensive, corruption thrives as a natural, inevitable and


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Political Corruption: In and beyond the Nation State


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 252

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?