Corruption — So What?

What is corruption? And so what?


It is easy to misunderstand the meaning of “corruption” if you haven’t experienced it. It sounds like an inconvenience, an extra expense or delay. Perhaps you pay a little extra to have a telephone installed or a bonus to obtain a business license or immigration document.

If that was all that corruption meant, it would be a nuisance. But corruption is a great deal more.

Corruption destroys lives, families, businesses, and property by denying the basic human right of equal protection under law.


Corruption rankings are misleading proxies...

Unlike with the earlier discussions in the chapters Formal Law and Applied Law, this chapter on Your Law has no direct data.

It is relatively easy to collect information about existing laws, statutes, history, and court decisions because they are widely available, often even published by the government.

But corruption happens in secret. No one reports bribes paid. You can’t go to the police and ask how many fraud cases they covered up, or to the court and ask how many unfair and biased decisions they delivered.

So organizations like Transparency International try to approximate corruption rankings through polls asking relatively innocuous questions like “did you have to pay a bribe for a service during the last year?” The question makes it sound like an added expense. Yes, it’s irritating, but really—so what if you had to pay a little extra?

Corruption rankings are significant because the scores for little things like paying off a cop to fix a parking ticket are assumed to correlate with big things. When a business you have worked ten years to build is stolen out from under you with the apparent connivence of the police, or your children are taken from you through a collusive court proceeding, that is the real cost of corruption.

Living in a country with a high corruption ranking is not something that can be taken care of with money. There is no window in the courthouse announcing bribes, where you can line up to pay the fee to get a fair decision. Even if you are willing to pay a bribe to obtain justice, that window is probably closed to you, and your opponent may well have the experience to come in with an earlier or higher bid.


Corruption in criminal cases...

Corruption which includes police and the courts also includes prosecutors and lawyers. They also handle criminal matters.

When they all have relationships, they can do business with “I really want this one; if you throw it for me, I’ll let you have the next four.”

If you have been accused of a crime, or if you are the victim of a crime, would you want your lawyer making a deal when you can’t be certain of whether you are the one, or the four?