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Corruption the Relationship Between Corruption and Democracy Term Paper

Pages:15 (4046 words)



Topic:Political Corruption

Document Type:Term Paper



The relationship between corruption and democracy as a political institution has been at the core of studies and researches for political science since its beginnings. The development made in the filed of Political Science along the years has influenced the way scientists perceived and analyzed the corruption phenomenon. Charles H. Blake nad Stephen D. Morris have gathered under the all embracing title Corruption and Democracy in Latin America, the works of several political analysts who approached the topic enunciated in the title of the book through different methods: theoretical studies or the presentation of illustrative case studies.

The book contains two parts, the first being dedicated to essays on the "Causes and Impacts of Corruption in Latin America," while the second presents case studies that complete the undertakings in the first part, by treating particular cases in particular countries. The editors who sign the introduction and the conclusion, explain their vision on the outline of this book and briefly present a literature review on the subject.

Strom C. Thacker opens the first part of the book with an essay that tackles the evolution and outcome of democracy in relationship with corruption in Latin America from the point-of-view of a data analysis that seeks to place the region in the global context of evolution from the same point-of-view. The author combines the quantitative methodology with the statistical data available for each Latin American country supplied by the World Bank and different sets of variables containing economic indicators. The economic factors and the corruption ratings are considered into the historical context of a country's democracy age.

The conclusion of this study shows that in spite of the general perception that Latin American countries continue to suffer form the high levels of political corruption since the establishment of democratic regimes in most of the countries, they actually fit the global pattern. The levels of political corruption in Latin American countries are as much dependent of the age of their democracies and the economical reforms undertaken since the change in political institutions as they are for the rest of the globe. Thacker ends his study with the example of two of the most successful Latin American countries in the field of corruption control that are maybe not accidentally the countries with the longest democratic history in the region.

Alfred Rehren presents a different view on the outcome and the development of democratic states since the third wave of democratization had swept across Latin America in the 1980s. He combines data related to corruption perception from Transparency International for a period between 1980 and 2005 with transparency measures for electoral campaigns data supplied by Pinto-Duschinsky in 2002 and concludes that the corruption levels do not show indicators of diminishing in the medium and long-term, when tanking into account the available data. Rehren's position related to the future of the Latin American nations in terms of a sound political structure, free of corruption is pessimistic. He emphasizes the importance of an objective, free pres a an effective means of control in the field of corruption, although he points out that in the short run, better conditions for the freedom of the press, such as those in Uruguay, Costa Rica and Chile are not necessary followed by the modified perception of corruption levels in the political structures. He also concludes that the adoption of economic measures and changing such as neoliberal reforms have a downside, too, in recently democratized Latin American countries: they create "propitious grounds for corruption within national political elites" (Rehren, 2009, p.59) for foreign actors interested in economic activities in the respective countries.

The third essay of the first part, by John Bailey goes into a more detailed approach of the notion of corruption and corruption types and it follows its links to the ways democracy is affected. Weak public support for governments and government institution expressed in different ways leads to different types of power exercising from the latter.

Since the contemporary public understanding of the meanings of "democracy" and "corruption" are varying to a certain degree in Latin America, but are relatively similar to those of the American public, for example, Bailey underlines Michael Johnston's suggestion of the necessity to include "perception and opinion" (Bailey, 2009, p. 62) to the definition of the both of the two aforementioned terms. "Perceptions of what constitutes trivial vs. serious corruption vary over time and across groups and strata defined in different ways. These perceptions, in turn, influence attitudes related to regime legitimacy and individual behavior (e.g. voting, obeying the law, and the like)" (Bailey, 2009, p. 63).

The major theories that political scientists have used in their approaches of the topic corruption are: the principal agent-model, sustained among others by Johann Graff Lambsdorff and the principle of the rational choice, forwarded by Johnston. Both Johnston in his book Syndromes of Corruption: wealth, power and democracy and the authors who contributed to the book Corruption and Democracy in Latin America point out the fact that the topic of corruption is a relatively new subject of interest for Political Science as well as for international organizations and the world powers. The changes that have occurred on the political arena since the end of the Cold war, preceded by the changes that have led to changing of the political systems in Latin America, since the beginning of the 1980s have brought into the light a series of causes and effects that reflected on the future of humanity as an organism governed by political rules. The globalizing era has also offered a subject of debate among politicians because some consider that corruption was a "necessary evil to cut bureaucratic tape, redistribute resources, and sustain socio-economic development in countries whose governments opposed communism" (Manzetti&Wilson 2009, p.78), the changes brought by the end of the cold war made political scientists consider new approaches and theories for their analysis of the phenomenon of corruption of the political system in democratic countries.

The analysis of the causes and consequences of corruption, regardless of the theories one might adopt in one's approaches should always start with defining the terms used in the analysis. Transparency International, whose statistical date is an important source of information and a component for the empirical analysis of modern political science defines corruption as "the use of public office for personal gain" (Thomas & Meagher 2004).

Grimot Nane who considers the definition incomplete, adds to this definition that takes into consideration only the public sector the private sphere ingredient that makes the medium complete. He arrives thus at the conclusion that Mishra's definition is the one that best describes the phenomenon of corruption in the contemporary world: "behavior that deviates from formal duties because of private gains" (Mshra 2006, cited by Nane 2007). The theories used in political science to analyze the phenomenon of corruption have developed as a natural consequence of the development and changes the societies underwent, especially during the last twenty years.

Modern economic relationships have made statistical date analyzing the level of corruption in different countries absolutely necessary in order to determine factors indicating the country risk and thus influencing the level of investment. Lambsdorff takes into account the literature that considered the way corruption influences investment in a certain country that and brings a further understanding of the relationship between corruption and investment by further making a differentiation between types of corruption and their respective effects on investment. Researchers who made cross-section countries studies of the impact corruption has on economic and social factors have found that local, foreign and public investments are directly and negatively influenced by corruption.

One the other hand, Labsdorff provides evidence form other authors who analyzed the statistical date in cross-section of countries analysis that the poor quality of the education system, the inequality aspects, a low GDP are factors that also influence the degree of corruption in a country.

The question corruption as sand or grease in the wheels is easily answered in the light of the latest data. Lambsdorff pays a close attention to the various outcomes corruption is proven to have in the light of the types and economic and social sectors that came under the scrutiny of these studies. The evidence gathered on the investments in the public sector depending on the corruption levels and predictability is mostly leading conclusions towards the idea that the higher the corruption, the lower the public investments.

However, Lambsdorff underlines that the some authors used methodologies that may become questionable when considering the results. The most reliable evidence-based effects corruption has on economic and social factors are in Lambdroff's opinion those related to the unofficial economy, the health care and education system. A cross-section of countries indicates that percentage of infant mortality and low-birth weight for example, are higher in countries with higher level of corruption than in other countries. Some researchers like Tanzi and Davoodi are shown by Lambsdorff to have found evidence that "1-point increase in corruption is associated with a 1.5 percentage point decline in total…

Sample Source(s) Used

Lambsdorff, J.G. Consequences and Causes of Corruption -- What do We Know from a Cross-Section of Countries? Passau University

Nane, Grimot 2007. Does Rational Choice Explain Corruption and its Persistence Adequately? Annual Conference of the Association of Heterodox Economics, Bristol, England 6th-8th June 2007

Thomas, MA & Meagher, P (2004), A Corruption Primer: An Overview of Concepts in the Corruption Literature, Working Paper No. 04/03, IRIS, University Of Maryland, USA, February 2004

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