The institutional components of political corruption

Authored by: Miriam A. Golden , Paasha Mahdavi

Routledge Handbook of Comparative Political Institutions

Print publication date:  April  2015
Online publication date:  April  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415630887
eBook ISBN: 9781315731377
Adobe ISBN: 9781317551799


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The misuse of public office for private or partisan gain—political corruption, in short—is as ancient as the art of politics itself. Its contemporary study began in the 1990s, with the public dissemination of various rankings on the degree of corruption in countries around the world. As the data depicted in Figure 28.1 suggest, the rankings document that the main correlate of corruption is economic development. Poor countries are often highly corrupt; rich countries, almost never. Studies that analyze the rankings spotlight the great theoretical puzzle of political corruption: the establishment of democratic institutions has at best a modest and perhaps even no systematic impact on a country’s cross-national corruption ranking. The coding by regime type depicted in Figure 28.1 shows that poor democracies are as likely to be highly corrupt as poor autocracies. Why democracy does not conclusively and significantly reduce corrupt activities by elected officials remains an ongoing topic of controversy, and the main unsolved theoretical problem associated with this topic. It is not, however, the only unsolved issue related to corruption.

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