Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Disentangling Corruption and Democracy/Rethinking Corruption, Democracy, and Political Power: Finding a Linkage

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Disentangling Corruption and Democracy/Rethinking Corruption, Democracy, and Political Power: Finding a Linkage

Article excerpt

Disentangling Corruption and Democracy

Roberta Ann Johnson 1

University of San Francisco

AND

Rethinking Corruption, Democracy, and Political Power: Finding a Linkage

Herbert H. Werlin

Retired University of Maryland and World Bank

Editor's Note: Herbert H. Werlin's article "Corruption and Democracy: Is Lord Acton Right?" appeared in the Fall 2007 issue of this Journal. Two follow-up articles have been submitted that continue the discussion of these important subjects. The first is by Roberta Ann Johnson of the University of San Francisco, editor of the 2004 book The Struggle Against Corruption: A Comparative Study, who gives an overall favorable critique of Werlin's analysis while herself extending the discussion in several ways, including bringing in the typologies introduced by Michael Johnston in his Syndromes of Corruption (2005). Werlin has followed this with a second article of his own, in this case, among other things, delving more deeply into the comparisons of Bangladesh with Vietnam, and Singapore with Jamaica. We are publishing the two articles together here as in effect one package. It is interesting that the two articles are complementary, not a rebuttal by Johnson and surrebuttal by Werlin.

Key Words: Corruption, Corruption Transparency Index, democracy, liberal democracy, classical democracy. Political Elasticity theory, Rule of Law, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Singapore, Jamaica, Mumbai, Beijing, Lord Acton.

Disentangling Corruption and Democracy

Roberta Ann Johnson

University of San Francisco

Scholars, leaders, lawyers, patriots, politicians, outsiders and insiders have danced around the issue of corruption. They've defended it, they've deplored it, they've discussed it, interpreted it and some have even tried to change it. Although evidence suggests that corruption demoralizes citizens (Rose-Ackerman 1999), undermines morale (Balogun 2003: 130), and affects people's spirit (Arman 1998), corruption has not become a central issue because of concern with its moral, human or spiritual implications. Corruption is a central issue because of a consensus that corruption, especially the "secondary corruption" that Herbert Werlin describes, impedes the prosperity and stability of nations. "Cross-national statistical studies of corruption" suggest that "more corruption is generally associated with less investment, lower growth, lower income ... and weaker political system support" (Manion 2004: 6).

With so many impediments associated with corruption, and with so many studies pointing to that fact, it is disappointing that in most corrupt countries corruption levels continue unchanged even after many creative investments and costly efforts to reduce corruption are attempted (10, 11). Unfortunately, there is no quick fix. The reason is that corruption is entangled in the political, social, and economic landscape where it operates. As Herbert Werlin demonstrates in his essay "Corruption and Democracy: Is Lord Acton Right?" in the Fall 2007 issue of this Journal, corruption cannot be seriously addressed in isolation, separate from other social, political, and economic factors.

I am grateful that Werlin makes this point with a range of evidence that includes the rich narratives of Maya Chadda and Jasmine Martirossian, who contributed the chapters on India and Russia in the book I edited, The Struggle Against Corruption: A Comparative Study (Johnson 2004). Although India and Russia were both considered to be among the 30 most corrupt countries in the world, and they were given the exact same Corruption Perception rating from Transparency International in 2002 (71 out of 102 countries), their historic contexts remain worlds apart. Only the descriptive discourse of case studies could capture their substantial differences.

However, while corruption expresses itself differently in every country, and patterns vary, a general mainstay of corruption is that it has a corrosive and widespread effect on the quality of life of its citizenry. …

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