The Troika of Sociology, Political Science and Economics
Edited by Gert Tingaard Svendsen and Gunnar Lind Haase Svendsen
Chapter 8: Corruption
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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