The Elgar Companion to the Economics of Property Rights
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The Elgar Companion to the Economics of Property Rights

Edited by Enrico Colombatto

Economics is a matter of choice and growth, of interaction and exchange among individuals. Because property rights define the rules of these interactions and the objects of exchange, it is vital to fully understand the institutions and implications of the various property-rights regimes. With over 20 original and specially commissioned chapters, this book takes the reader from the historical and moral foundations of the discipline to the frontiers of scholarly research in the field.
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Chapter 15: Corruption

Bruce L. Benson and Fred S. McChesney


Bruce L. Benson and Fred S. McChesney* I won’t tell anybody else I’ll keep it to myself So c’mon and steal away. Please, steal away. (Jimmy Hughes, ‘Steal Away’1) Introduction Corruption is ubiquitous, not just in the world but also in the literature of law and social science. ‘The literature on corruption is both vast and diverse’ (Bowles 2000, p. 462). Very little of that literature, however, views corruption in property rights terms. Yet, it is submitted here, the problems of corruption are essentially those related to property rights. It follows that desirable solutions to corruption problems must start by recognizing the property rights nature of the phenomenon. Broadly defined, corruption is not limited to the public sector. For example, an employee of XYZ, Inc. may take a kick-back from Firm A in exchange for the employee’s awarding a contract from XYZ to A rather than to Firm B, a lower bidder. Private sector corruption, however, is a species of agency cost more generally, and thus raises issues beyond the scope of this chapter. The subject here is corruption in the public sector. A summary such as this can only outline the principal modes of analysis to which corruption has been and should be subjected. Some more minor analytic strains must perforce be shortchanged. The works referenced below contain many citations to other work not discussed here. Fiorentini and Zamagni (1999) compile a good bit of the economic scholarship (see also Kaufman 1998). The standard view of corruption The...

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