The Political Economy of Corruption

By Arvind K. Jain | Go to book overview

10

Controlling power and politics

Arvind K. Jain

Corruption becomes possible when those in positions of power fail to keep their public and private interests separate. There would be no need for monitoring or control of such separation if those in power were pathologically honest. This, however, is rarely the case. There would also be no need for such monitoring if the markets - for labor, capital, and commodities - were perfect. Perfect markets would allow prices and wages to adjust and allow misuse of powers to be "bought out." Since this is also not the case, societies that delegate powers to politicians, legislators, and administrators must develop strategies to control and separate use of public power for public use from that for private use, that is, corruption. These strategies must be incorporated in the system that allocates these positions of power, and in the checks and balances that are installed as part of that system. Hence the importance of the "politics" of corruption and, hence, of this volume. Political systems must minimize incentives for misuse of power as well as account for imperfections in the markets that allow the misuses to persist.

Efforts at reducing corruption will have little impact unless they are directed at the essence or core of corruption, rather than at the activities that are manifestations of corruption but are confused with the activity itself. Bribery, for example, is a manifestation or form of corruption; the essence of corruption is the ability of a bureaucrat or a politician to take advantage of its powers. Recent events in France have illustrated this point quite well. France was ranked twentieth out of ninety countries in the Transparency International's "Corruption Perception Index" for the year 2000, placing the country in the company of other Western European countries. While this index, as Johnston points out in his second contribution in this volume, is quite reliable in what it measures, it relies largely on perception of acts of bribery. Does this then mean that the French political system can be considered to be among the more-or-less corruption-free systems around the world? Developments in the later half of 2000 would challenge this contention. President of the country, Jacques Chirac, son of a former president, Jean-Christophe Mitterand, and a former president of France's highest legal body, Roland Dumas,

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