A Comparative Law Approach
Studies in Comparative Law and Legal Culture series
Edited by Jean-Bernard Auby, Emmanuel Breen and Thomas Perroud
Chapter 1: Corruption and conflicts of interest
Conflicts of interest come in two overlapping forms. First, the interests of different parts of government may conflict. As democratic institutions developed, newly empowered parliaments sought to limit the king's influence. Monarchs maintained power by providing favors and official positions to legislators. Hence, early efforts were closely tied to an emerging view of the separation of powers, even if some of the benefits were private. Second, the concept refers to conflicts between public roles and private financial interests.Today, the first form is less prominent than the second. Of course, powerful presidents and prime ministers can still seek to sway politicians through their control over government posts and spending priorities. Furthermore, certain institutional reforms are unlikely because they conflict with the interests of politicians. Nevertheless, constitutional terms, legal prohibitions, and the division of labor mean that worries about the separation of powers are not at the forefront. In contrast, the complexity of modern society means that the second form is pervasive. Individuals play multiple public and private roles with accompanying tensions between their conflicting demands. An individual may play many roles simultaneously. Those who hold government or political positions as legislators, ministers, party functionaries, judges, presidents, prime ministers, or civil servants also have other responsibilities. They are family members, businessmen, tribal elders, religious leaders, or even criminals. A characteristic of modern complex societies is that people shift roles over days, weeks, or years. What is appropriate or even required in one role may be inappropriate or illegal in others.