Handbook of Social Capital
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Handbook of Social Capital

The Troika of Sociology, Political Science and Economics

Edited by Gert Tingaard Svendsen and Gunnar Lind Haase Svendsen

The Handbook of Social Capital offers an important contribution to the study of bonding and bridging social capital networks, balancing the ‘troika’ of sociology, political science and economics. Eminent contributors, including Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom, explore the different scientific approaches required if international research is to embrace both the bright and the more shadowy aspects of social capital. The Handbook stresses the importance of trust for economies all over the world and contains a strong advocacy for cross-disciplinary work within the social sciences.
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Chapter 8: Corruption

Eric M. Uslaner


1 Eric M. Uslaner Corruption flouts rules of fairness and gives some people advantages that others don’t have. Corruption transfers resources from the mass public to the elites – and generally from the poor to the rich (Tanzi, 1998). It acts as an extra tax on citizens, leaving less money for public expenditures (Mauro, 1998: 7). Corrupt governments have less money to spend on their own projects, pushing down the salaries of public employees. In turn, these lower-level staffers will be more likely to extort funds from the public purse. Government employees in corrupt societies will thus spend more time lining their own pockets than serving the public. Corruption thus leads to lower levels of economic growth and to ineffective government (Mauro, 1998: 5). The roots of corruption lie in the unequal distribution of resources in a society. Economic inequality provides a fertile breeding ground for corruption – and, in turn, it leads to further inequalities. The connection between inequality and the quality of government is not necessarily so simple: as the former Communist nations of Central and Eastern Europe show, you can have plenty of corruption without economic inequality. The path from inequality to corruption may be indirect – through generalized trust – but the connection is key to understanding why some societies are more corrupt than others. When we trust people who may be different from ourselves, we will be more predisposed to treat them honestly – and profiting from corruption will seem unseemly. When we distrust strangers, especially...

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