Monday, December 11, 2006
What with William Jefferson's being re-elected by a substantial majority and Republicans and Democrats all across the country coming under fire left and right for corruption and ethics issues, I thought a visit to Transparency International would bear a look see. From their website: "Transparency International is a global network including more than 90 locally established national chapters and chapters-in-formation. These bodies fight corruption in the national arena in a number of ways. They bring together relevant players from government, civil society, business and the media to promote transparency in elections, in public administration, in procurement and in business. TI’s global network of chapters and contacts also use advocacy campaigns to lobby governments to implement anti-corruption reforms."
Though many of us are prone to argue that a country's politics and economic structure is what makes it a good or bad place to live, in most cases it is the presence of corruption, in its many forms, that truly sorts the good from the bad. "Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. It hurts everyone whose life, livelihood or happiness depends on the integrity of people in a position of authority." I certainly would expect that those countries with socialist regimes and economies, or theocratic dictatorships (as in Iran, for instance) would score very high on the corruption barometer, and it turns out, they do. Still, many countries with freely elected governments, with free economic environments score high, as well. What keeps these countries from making the lives of their citizens better is, quite simply, corruption.
Many of us have experienced corruption in our lives, here in the good old USA. When the cop in your hometown pulls people over just to pad his stats on Drunk Driving convictions (yeah, it happens here) or when the local election officials throw your vote away or assist in limiting others ability to vote or get out the vote, that's corruption. We could be much better off than we are, and we're doing great compared to most countries! Just imagine how prevalent and horrific these things are in, say, Turkey or Pakistan.
It is my belief that free economies (and ours is not nearly as free as it should be), rule of law (honestly and fairly enforced) and local control in most governmental matters, are the prerequisites for true freedom in any country. The more I read, the more I feel this way.
For a look at how the different participating countries did in the "corruption barometer" surveys at Transparency International, visit this site and click on "English Global Corruption Barometer 2006" under the segment entitled "Full Report".