The (suspiciously bulging) envelope please…
Transparency International has just released its 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index. Given how hard Hamid Karzai has been working to win this year’s Mobutu Sese Seko Kleptocrat of the Year Award, he was no doubt disappointed not to find his picture on the cover of the report. Still, he was probably mollified by Afghanistan’s very strong ...
Transparency International has just released its 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index. Given how hard Hamid Karzai has been working to win this year's Mobutu Sese Seko Kleptocrat of the Year Award, he was no doubt disappointed not to find his picture on the cover of the report. Still, he was probably mollified by Afghanistan's very strong showing, finishing in a tie for second to worst among the 178 countries covered by the report, a compilation of public opinion survey data.
Transparency International has just released its 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index. Given how hard Hamid Karzai has been working to win this year’s Mobutu Sese Seko Kleptocrat of the Year Award, he was no doubt disappointed not to find his picture on the cover of the report. Still, he was probably mollified by Afghanistan’s very strong showing, finishing in a tie for second to worst among the 178 countries covered by the report, a compilation of public opinion survey data.
But enough about him. My reactions to the report:
- We in the United States have so much to be proud of. We pick two countries in the world in which to show a special interest, to take under our big capitalist wings and help nurture Jeffersonian values, and both of them, Afghanistan and Iraq, distinguish themselves by finishing in the bottom four, with Iraq just being edged out by the team of Karzai and those fun-loving SLORCsters in Myanmar. Only Somalia was seen as more corrupt. Or to look at it another way, of the four most corrupt countries in the world, only Myanmar has not had the privilege of an extended visit from U.S. troops in the past two decades. (Odd, since arguably, they may have deserved one the most. But give them credit, unlike their neighbors in the bottom of the rankings, they achieved their status among the worlds corrupterati all by themselves.)
- Furthermore, back home, Americans have even more to thump our chests about. After all, we were ranked 22d in the world, only being edged out by countries like Belgium, Chile, Britain, Qatar, Japan and Barbados. How great to be in such company, especially with our British cousins, considering how closely we are linked in such matters-take for example the BAE-Saudi Arms scandal that many consider the most egregious in history or the fact that both the U.S. and Britain are just coming off a period of several years of some of the most notorious legislative corruption scandals in their histories.
- The fact that the U.S. finishes so high on the list however, suggests that those participating in the multiple surveys used by TI to determine their results may have missed the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision which effectively said that corruption was one of the freedoms guaranteed by America’s founders under the U.S. Constitution. (If you missed the decision, see my earlier blog posting on it, here.) Either that or those surveyed were working within the narrow although commonly accepted definition that suggests that corruption is only something done by non-whites in hot countries. A corollary to that definition is that wearing a suit and wiring funds rather than handing them over in big bags of cash (a la the recent Iranian aid program to the Karzai family, er, government) can lead to the reclassification of any behavior from being corrupt to simply "taking care of business."
- Come to think of it, studying the list, the single strongest predictor of whether a country is likely to be considered corrupt is average temperature. Or another way to look at it is that snow seems to be the most effective antidote to corruption. While Singapore is an outlier among the top 10 countries (suggesting very advanced air-conditioning technology in the city state), it is interesting to note that of the top 5 countries, three are in Scandinavia and of the top 11, six have had Vikings play a significant role in their history. (I include Canada because of all the Vineland/Newfoundland/Greenland history. The others are, in descending order: Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland. Interesting given the not entirely genteel, law-abiding history of the Norsemen back in the day.) The next most likely indicator is average annual rainfall with countries at the extreme ends of the spectrum not showing very well either.
- Where is the world headed? Well if the future belongs to the BRICs, the answer might seem to suggest it’ll always be a good idea in the future to tuck a little extra cash in your briefcase. Brazil topped out the group, finishing 69th. China was almost dead center among nations of the world at 78th. India was 87th. And those wonderful folks who gave you the seamless progression from the KGB to the Russian Mafia to the oligarchs of today, the residents of Putintopia, finished a strong 154th, just beating Tajikstan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Of course, as you might expect with any study by a group calling itself Transparency International, the results themselves are slightly opaque. Not only does the data involved come from multiple studies conducted by multiple organizations under rather different conditions, but it is an opinion study from limited samples and as inevitably must be the case colored by a host of cultural biases and other factors.
Still, for the Karzais of this world…and the rest of us who want to track their progress, it does perform a valuable service…the next best thing to being able to see the balances in their Swiss bank accounts. (Switzerland, of course, creator of the banking secrecy laws that have done so much to protect the corrupt over the years, finished a very "respectable" 8th.)
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