Democracy and corruption

Platypus wrote on the link between political openess (democracy) and corruption. He asked good question to counter  the widely  accepted Western view that with political openess , all those corruption problems will dissapear.
Date:   08-28-05 23:24
I’ve written a bit on this subject on other forums. I’m just going repost one piece here with minimal editing:
Corruption is a big and important subject, so it’s perplexing why the most pertinent issues about corruption are so often overlooked.
Take the comparison between US/China on corruption. Usually the exercise involves showing that the US is cleaner than China, followed by the explanation that it’s all because China is a communist dictatorship. Full stop.
Setting aside the issue of institutionalized corruption for now (which is rampant, and legal, in western countries), and just accept that China is indeed more corrupt, even much more corrupt, than the US. The question remains, what does it show? Instead of using US/China for comparison, why not US/India, US/Philippines, US/Nigeria, US/Russia? A country like India is arguably more democratic than the US (it has more political parties with genuine influence, while the US has a duopolistic lock on political power), and has a more vibrant press. Yet India fares worse–far worse–than China in terms of corruption, according to the study from Transperancy International.
China is a big, complex developing country, so it’s going to have the problems common to all 3rd world countries. Now, if you take the 15 largest developing countries in the world, and score them on corruption as defined by Transperancy Int’l, you’d find that China ranks 4th out of 15 in terms of lack of corruption, even though, by the standard western measure of "democracy", China probably has the most closed political system. The fact that this result may be paradoxical does not make it any less true.
If you want to be truthful and scientific about it, you’d have to conclude that the link between political "openness" and cleaniness is weak to non-existent, while the real link is between cleaniness and per-capita income, with the only real exceptions being a few oil-rich Mideast countries. Now, China is one developing country with a fantastic track record in raising per-capita income across a huge population, and chances are good that it is on the most effective course to address the problem of corruption. Now doesn’t China deserve some kudos from those of you most concerned about corruption?

About kchew

an occasional culturalist
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