17 Jul 2013

Can you fix corruption from within?

I've paid attention to corruption for a long time, and I've been thinking of how hard it is to "reform" a corrupt system. Many leaders make a good faith effort to reform,* but they often fail or are themselves accused of corruption. The former occurs because corruption is too deeply embedded in the system. The latter occurs because they try to stop corruption in one place while allowing it to happen elsewhere. Then they are accused of "supporting" corruption.

I think it is easier for leaders to "expose" the system than engage (or direct) it. Exposure can be increased via transparency (e.g., publishing financial flows), incentives (e.g., public procurement auctions), or competition (e.g., making it easier for people to move to different jurisdictions or breaking monopolies on various services). Exposure will make it easier for citizens and bureaucrats to see what's going on and vote with their feet. The system will then slowly evolve to a better state.


* Others talk about it without an intention of doing anything. They are sometimes hard to separate from those who really want change.