Is your country corrupt?

by Philip Brewer on 20 November 2008 33 comments
Photo: Philip Brewer

When I first traveled overseas, I was surprised to learn that many foreigners thought of the United States as a corrupt place--surprised enough that I undertook some careful questioning to figure out what they meant by that.  The results crystalized my thinking about levels of corruption.

My own experience was that the level of corruption in the United States was low compared with other places that I've heard about.  For example, in my entire life, I've never paid a bribe.  In fact, I've never been in a circumstance where I thought paying a bribe would be particularly likely to help.  I've also, with one possible exception, never accepted a bribe.  (The possible exception was when I spent one day working as a garbage collector, and the experienced worker who was showing me how it was done let someone who wasn't a customer pay him a few dollars to haul away some trash, and then shared the money with me.)

The foreigners I had talked to about the matter, though, had an impression of the United States as the sort of place where rich, white folks had nothing to fear from a justice system that oppressed minorities and the poor--an analysis that certainly has enough truth to make fair-minded Americans uncomfortable, but that wasn't really in sync with my personal experience.  (Admittedly, my personal experience is that of a white person of adequate financial means.)  My own experience is that someone who commits no crimes is really quite safe from unfair prosecution.  Someone who does commit a crime is in a more ambiguous situation, although calling the complexities there "corruption" seems like an oversimplification.

So, then, I created in my own mind a scale for levels of corruption.  My scale focuses on the necessity to pay bribes, so it ignores other aspects of corruption (whether officials are stealing from the government, for example), which is not to say that I think those things aren't important:  I picked this metric because I wanted anyone to be able to rate their own situation entirely on the basis of personal experience.  Here's what I came up with:

  • Corruption universal.  This is where an honest person cannot get along without engaging in corrupt practices--refusing to pay the right bribes or offer the right favors will lead to things like being beat up, imprisoned, or even shot,  along with having your property confiscated.
  • Corruption commonplace.  This is where it's theoretically possible to refrain from engaging in corrupt practices.  You can choose not to pay bribes without getting shot or imprisoned, but things like getting a business license or a building permit become extremely difficult without paying a bribe.  Getting the power turned on or a telephone line connected might take a year or more, but paying the right bribe can get it done in just a few days.
  • Corruption optional.  This is where it is genuinely practical to avoid corrupt practices, but some corruption does exist.  In most situations it's never necessary to pay a bribe--but it's sometimes possible.  Someone who runs a restaurant, for example, has the realistic option of following all the health and safety regulations--but also may have the option of paying off the health inspector instead.
  • Corruption rare.  This is where there's little opportunity to engage in corrupt practices.  The law prosecutes criminals without regard to class or position, and innocent people are safe.  Government officials follow the law on things like licenses, permits, and inspections.  There is little opportunity to improve your circumstance by paying a bribe.

The United States is a big country--big enough that it pretty much covers the whole range.  There are plenty of places where corruption is very rare and the laws are enforced quite evenhandedly, but there are plenty of other places where some low-level corruption is routine, especially with regard to businesses that work for the government being obliged to pay kickbacks in some form or another.  And, although I've never experienced it personally, I don't doubt that there are some places where corruption is commonplace or even mandatory, especially within communities whose legitimate access to the police is limited (such as among illegal immigrants or prostitutes).

Transparency International publishes its Corruption Perceptions Index, which puts Denmark, New Zealand, and Sweden as the least corrupt countries.  The most recent update puts the USA at number 18 out of 180 on the list.  Down at the bottom are places like Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq, Myanmar, and Somalia.

How about your country--or your community if you're in the United States?  What's your experience with corruption?

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Wesley Simon

You seem to focus on obvious corruption: slipping a benjamin to get out of a speeding ticket or paying Guido $500 a week to not get your legs broken. I tend to believe that corruption in the United States is less obvious. I see it taking the form of the good ole' boy system: hiring and/or promoting friends and relatives rather than the most qualified, giving the contract to a friend or relative rather than the best deal for the company or government. This also happens on a much larger scale: the tax breaks given to the large corporations over the last 8 years, the no bid contracts given to Haliburton, etc. I was unfortunate enough to experience corruption while going through a divorce: the two attorneys played a game designed to prolong the process, to file meaningless motion after meaningless motion by manipulating the hurt and anger felt myself and ex-wife. We see the corruption at the gas pump: How do all those gas stations set their prices within $0.02 of one another? This organized price setting is not questioned by anyone. If some less liked organizations did the same thing, it would be called organized crime. I believe that the United States has socially acceptable forms of corruption. Why do we turn a blind eye to this type of corruption but look down our noses at countries like Mexico where bribes are the only way to handle a speeding ticket?

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Aja Sutherland

Your view is so American, it is laughable. In other countries, if you get into a top position and DON'T hire relatives and friends, and even friends of relatives, you are considered selfish and not a good family member. Is that corruption, or just a different way of looking at things?

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Guest

Hiring your friends over the most qualified isn't corruption - its helping family and friends. If they aren't the most qualified, then your company may suffer as the most qualified will likely be hired by someone else.

Guest's picture
Guest

I can not pay the garbage man a bribe uh, err tip. He can skip my pickup or trash my trash can too. Or, I can pay a "tip" and get my trash pickup a bit more frequently and the can is only ordinarily damaged. As long as the trash company gets its fee, the company doesn't care. At least in western Pennsylvania.

Guest's picture
Wilson

It would be nice to bribe one's way out of a speeding ticket rather than be penalized by the insurance industry's extortion. Of course it would be interesting to know if the Mexican police are honest about bribery, and only pull over people who are actually speeding.

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#First comment on the site

You know not what you are saying. At least here in Tijuana, where I currently live, they will not even accept bribes in pesos anymore. It's 50USD bills or higer. You have a nice shiny SUV (even if it's not new)? pay up! Even then you car might get towed, and you will have to pay even more in bribes to get it back because the cops will tell the guys at the impound lot you can be forced to pay up a bribe to get your car back.

Or you could just take the ticket, avoid paying any bribes, and then just pop to the equivalent of the DMV here and pay the fine.

Guest's picture

Its good you are naive, and really don't know how corrupt the USA is. Keep dreaming, because the truth would give you a heart attack!

Guest's picture
Guest

EuroYank, instead of just saying we're naive, why don't you tell us why. Give us some supporting arguments. You'd further your case rather than just sounding condescending.

Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

Funnily enough, a cab driver in Shanghai talked to me about this, and in the end our conclusion was that money is equivalent to power everywhere.  In America they don't call it bribes, instead, the politicians in congress have legal ways to accept money.  In many instances millions of dollars from companies sure sound like bribes to create & vote on bills.  It's also true that in America corruption is less obvious.  You don't often see a politician get shot for embezzling in America, but it happens all the time in China.

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DollarDream$

I am an immigrant from India, currently living in the US for last 7 years. I am ashamed to say that India is very, very corrupt country.Please note, I love my country and plan to go back after couple of years. However in India, common man pays bribes for several things in the daily life. Some examples
1. To get out of a speeding ticket or a traffic violation
2. To get a government job or a contract
3. To get elected
4. To get out of a train / bus fare.
5. To get any work done in govt office

In last 7 years in the US, I have never paid or accepted bribe for anything. I can't imagine going back to India and living there being a part of the corrupt system!

Thanks

Philip Brewer's picture

@Wesley Simon:

Even without any corruption--just with free markets--you can easily get the result of every outlet charging about the same price.

Putting aside things like different quality and better locations, for any product there's a single market-clearing price.  If you charge more than that, your sales collapse, because everyone chooses to buy from a competitor.  If you charge less than that, though, you're just cutting into your own profits for no particular gain.  So, simple free markets can easily lead to the result you see--everyone charging the same price.

Of course, illegal price-fixing can produce the same result.  There's really no well to tell the difference, except with something like undercover work--putting an investigator in the room to hear the parties colluding on prices.

On your other point, Is simple bias the same as corruption?  After all, there's no way to know at the hiring stage who will be the most productive worker.  In fact, it's often tough even after the fact to know which worker does more to add value to the enterprise--the one who gets more widgets made per hour, or the one who gets almost as many widgets made, but also raises the quality of all the workers around him by sharing ideas?  Given that, it seems to me like it falls short of "corruption" to, for example, hire the children of my friends preferentially over strangers who seem like they might turn out to be about as productive.

Philip Brewer's picture

@EuroYank:

I'm well aware that there's plenty of corruption.  (I live in Illinois, after all.)  Especially between government officials and businesses that work for the government, there are all kinds of kickbacks, some more disguised than others.  Another area that's rife with corruption is arrangements between government regulatory agencies and the businesses that they regulate, often in the form of high-paying industry jobs for former regulators. 

Although I'd be very pleased to see all that cleaned up, it somehow seems less pernicious than having a government official come in and say, "Give me $100 or I'll shut your restaurant down because I've brought a dead rat with me and will claim that I found it here."

It also matters that the government does prosecute corruption charges when there's evidence of crimes being committed.  (Some of the revolving door problems with regulators and the businesses they regulate stem from the fact that the behavior isn't illegal, even though it should be.)

I'd be very interested to hear of specific kinds of corruption that you can point to, though, since you seem to have a very different perception of the problem than I do.

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S. Carvalho

It might be useful to note that in most third world countries where there is corruption at the speeding ticket level, there is also rampant corruption at the highest governmental levels. And it's not a few agencies or politicians, it's almost every single one. It's impossible to even get elected without bribing the right people. There's plenty of nepotism and good-ole-boyism too. It's somewhat naive to think that it would happen at the lowest levels on an everyday basis and somehow not permeate the highest levels. This is not to say, of course, that it should not be pursued extensively and cleaned up at the highest levels in countries like the US but it's an exponentially larger problem in say, India or Mexico.

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Guest

Here's an instance. Ron Rittenmeyer became CEO of eds. Making millions of course. He sold the company to hp for billions and gets a $66,000,000 'bonus'. Knowing full well that hp will lay off thousand of people. That figure is 25,000. Half in the US. To be replace with cheap shore workers. OH! Did I mention his son was hired into eds at a high level position. SCUM!!!!

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Guest

What about the millions that lobbyists spend each year to "influence" politicians? I think that's where the corruption lies.

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Ginny

I've lived in a lot of states and several countries. Of the countries, it seemed to me that the US as a whole was much less corrupt, at least on the level of daily life. In those other countries, we paid little "tips" to get anything at all done. In the US, I've worked for the government of several states. Louisiana was corrupt, without question, but I didn't see that in the other states. In Louisiana, I worked for a government program intended to help poor parents of severely mentally handicapped children with fees for various resources. The rich had all their kids enrolled in the program. That was one small example. While we were there, the governor was sent to the pen on corruption charges. A friend of ours in Louisiana started an engineering business; once I asked him why he didn't expand into Texas. He answered, "I don't know who to pay there." A lot of things weren't fair in all the states, but usually it had to do with the fact that the middle class and the wealthy were also better educated and knew how to access what they needed, not because they paid people off.

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Durbo

I think that you have to make a distinction between moral corruption and legal corruption. Moral corruption would be acts that we collectively disapprove of, but are not technically illegal. For instance, politicians who accept money from lobbyists are probably morally corrupt but are not necessarily committing a crime. On the other hand, slipping a $100 bill to a traffic cop is definitely illegal and against the law.

The difference with the United States is probably that most Americans probably would not blatantly do a corrupt act that was blatantly illegal. In some other countries, illegal corrupt acts are routine. In other words, Americans may be more law abiding. Does this mean that the USA is less corrupt or more hypocritical?

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wildigft

It seems like there are two definitions of "corruption". We think of it as bribes to get things done, or get out of trouble with the government, or unethical business practices. The people in the other country seem to think of "corruption" as an extension of race and class privilege. That is, people are not treated equally by the law and government.

We don't seem to have so much of the former, but, the country was, basically, founded on the latter. Perhaps the way our country created a caste society for people of African descent (and others) helped create the "democratic society" that many middle class people, especially white people, enjoy today.

Here's a simple example, to use a familiar symbol of a racist caste society. Assume that all the people need to drink water, so the city installs water fountains. However, the caste society demands that we have "separate but equal" facilities for White and Black people. (Or to use the parlance of the 1950s, Colored people.)

Now, the government folks know that the lower caste (the people of African descent) have little to no power, and there's a desire to maintain a caste society. So, the fountains for Whites are maintained in better condition than for Blacks.

Why would a White person complain about the water fountain? It's clear that resources are being diverted from the maintenance of the Black fountains to pay for the maintenance of the White fountains.

The need to do something to get a "favor" from the system is reduced, because the unequal distribution of resources is part of the system.

Now, to make a more salient, contemporary point. The most corrupt system in America today is the police system - it's often corrupt even when all the cops are honest. That's because of the War on Drugs, which is probably one of the most unfair government projects out there.

I went to a relatively "elite" school many years ago. At the height of the conservative "Reagan Revolution", drug use by some students was quite high :-) The vast majority of these lawbreakers were White, and of them, many were the children of professionals, like doctors, lawyers, academics, and middle management in corporations, etc.

Of perhaps 200 people I knew using illegal drugs, mostly marijuana, but also meth, acid, ecstasy, heroin, shrooms, and coke, I recall only one person being arrested.

Now, I don't know how many of these people have political power today. I'd guess that 90% are professionals doing highly intellectual work or have some community influence.

As far as I can see, this generation of drug users and lawbreakers have not become engaged in enlarging the political pressure to repeal the War on Drugs.

That's probably because they, and their kids, are not at risk of being pulled over for "driving while Black" (or Brown), and then being found with a small amount of marijuana on their person. It doesn't affect them.

Meanwhile, over 50% of people going to prison on drug charges are Black. They make up only 13% of the population. All people use illegal drugs at approximately the same rate, so the laws, if written fairly, and applied fairly, should produce more balanced convictions.

I think that's the corruption people see when they look at America.

Philip Brewer's picture

@wildigft:

You certainly won't find me defending the war on drugs.  I think it's a huge misallocation of resources that largely hurts people who are harmless (if technically "guilty" of a crime), sweeps in some number of innocent people as well, produces a bunch of peripheral violent crime (because the participants don't have access to the courts to adjudicate business disputes)--and, as you suggest, inevitably generates large amounts of corruption.  (Because of the nature of drug crimes--a willing seller and a willing buyer, both cooperating to keep the transaction secret--the only ways to get evidence to prosecute involve things like confidential informants and plea deals--both of which are inherently corrupting in the same ways that "paying for evidence" always is.)

I also agree with you that the behavior of people in power--who seem to think it's okay to harshly punish other people for actions that they themselves got away with--is shameful.

Still, in my experience, people do have the option of choosing to follow the law, and in doing so, largely protect themselves from the whole corrupt mess.  I think that's different in an important way from corruption that forces itself upon you however much you try to just get on with your life.

Also, the United States has a genuinely democratic government, so the unjust laws could be changed if the people who suffered would just become a bit more politically active.  (They wouldn't need to have a majority, either.  Any group that can deliver a large number of votes to candidates that support their agenda can shift public policy.)

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The Low Corruption Canadian Who Has Travelled the World

There are a few areas of corruption that make the USA different from many other countries that have made other choices:

(1)Educational "legacies" - the Bush clan who were able to pay their way into high level systems and the networks that relate to them. If that's not an institutionally acceptable bribe, I'm not sure what is. Having a few friends in the Ivies, I can assure you they're not exactly graduating with a legion of Obamas. A perfect SAT plus class presidency does not make the cut, but a Fortune 500 family does.

(2) Gentrification policies - strategic divesting poorer populations of real estate and resources by strategic rezoning. See: rebuilding the housing projects in New Orleans. That you don't understand what's going on does not make it any less corrupt. How is it better to steal a diamond mine than a billion dollar piece of property.

(3) A taxation system that has made the wealthy super rich while ensuring the middle class work more for less and the poor remain poor - it is ironic that America takes a page from the monarchies of England in designing its policy.

(4) A health system that is the biggest racket of all. Pay or Die.

But the most corrupt behavior of the United States is actually the way it has treated other nations, and international organizations. That is why the world thinks your country is corrupt, because many of them live in nations that can stand in line with examples of the ways America has extorted something from them, and continues to do so. Ask cotton farmers outside America about corruption via GATT, and why the Doha round was so contentious. Or ask why countries that corrupt law enforcement. It's often as a result of a coup paid for to gain access to a resource. Your country has taken some of the most amazing leaders South and Central America had to offer because they wouldn't give you a hydro dam for a little more cheap power. What about countries you've bombed for the past decade for no justifiable reason, attempting to extort a better price of oil? Is that corruption?

America is an expert at insitutionalizing corruption. They do it to their own, and they do it to others. Americans, like many citizens of "corrupt" nations, are great. America, like many "corrupt" nations, is far from it.

With respect, you have misunderstood why the world thinks America is corrupt. You will find these opinions fully supported by Americans like John Perkins and much of the non-American intellectual community.

Philip Brewer's picture

It's certainly true that the US has exported a lot of the injustice and inequality that would otherwise have manifested itself inside the United States.

Even so, I'm inclined to quibble about some of the examples you provide. 

I'd suggest, for example, that coming from a family where both parents read for pleasure gives a child a bigger leg up in achieving a top-notch education than any institutional bias in favor of their family.  It's possible for almost everyone in the US to go to college, and what the prestigous colleges provide is not a better eduction but contact with the people of your generation whose familes are already important--valuable, but not determinative.  To me, that makes the corrupting influence of family preference seem less important--at some point you just say, "Yeah, and the girls everyone likes get to be homecoming queen," and let it go.

What happened with housing in New Orleans is evil.  On the other hand, a lot of gentrification is the result of individual preferences rather than corrupt influence.  I don't think it helps to lump them together.

So, I guess you're right that I've misunderstood.  I think of "corruption" as being related to using improper influence to get advantages under color of law.  If the influence isn't improper (voting for example) I don't think of it as corruption.  Similarly, if the law isn't involved--landlords improving their apartments and raising the rent--I don't think of that as corruption either.

Thanks!

Guest's picture
Jim

To claim that a country is corrupt because the taxes are too high or low or that the country lacks free healthcare or other economic system details is not real corruption. Those are differences in economic system. Making money through legal business transactions is not corruption. These things may be unethical or immoral but they are not corruption.

The corruption index pointed to in the article is a good objective measurement and they define corruption as : "Corruption is operationally defined as the misuse of entrusted power for private gain." Individual opinions are very valid and everyone will never agree on a topic. But I think an objective study with a large amount of data is better substance than anecdotal evidence or perceptions people have from watching TV.

Guest's picture
Guest

The corruption in US is legalized systematic rip off and day light robbery of the decent people of this country by all those on Wall Street, in Washington and their cronies. This is evidenced by the current economic crisis, made in America and now ruining the whole world. It is on another scale! Capitalism has mutated and hijacked by an evil special interest group that brought us illegal wars, economical ruins, and moral decay. Can there be a better America?

Myth America: A Stand-up Tragedy
by Mickey Z. / September 19th, 2008
http://www.dissidentvoice.org/2008/09/myth-america-a-stand-up-tragedy/

Guest's picture
Guest

When I was a teen, a known friend to the family who had always wanted to be a police officer, was upset & talking to parents about the fact that the biggest drug dealers in the valley were declared to be "off limits" to prosecution as they "contributed" to the police dept & the hospital. He ended up being so unhappy by the bribery & corruption back then, he left the police force. Our countrys bribing Congress to "do it their" way & having predatory capitalism where everything is for Corps & big business & against the people of the USA: re credit cards, usury laws, loan sharking laws, & predator laws ignored re high interest rates which are all against the laws of the USA; yet, our lawmakers when given all the evidence have taken no actions at all to stop them nor even have the "so called" Attorney Generals who are supposedly there to prevent such things done 1 single thing; the homes in foreclosure are due to bribery done so that the qualified for good loans, low interest rates, etc, were deliberately steered into risky, high interest loans, & all kinds of bogus made up fees added to their "loan" as brought up before Congress: who of course had full knowledge & consented to it being done or it would never have happened. There is no justice in the USA; there is only oppression & cruelty beyond measure to it's citizens & will continue to get worse. Laws are not enforced by the supposed & total immunity is given to all except to the citizens. So you tell me: is there corruption here?

Guest's picture
nullrend

Comment was directed at Wilson. I guess I became too accustomed to having comment reply systems automatically place the "@"...

Guest's picture
Robert

The phrase "snow job" had a beginning when political district captains were able to hire their friends and supporters to shovel the streets after a snow storm.
Often they would simply lean on their shovels or put in two hours work for eight hours pay. My uncle owned a small shop in the Bronx. For a contribution of a couple of dollars, half a dozen men would clear the sidewalks in front of his store in a matter of minutes and thank him when finished. Corrupt, yes, but a benign corruption where the choice was yours and you benefitted from the transaction.

Same shop several years later... The city flunky who inspected scales comes in and explains that for $10 they need not waste the time of testing them.

The obvious chane is that at one point corruption was a tool to get more than you were entitled to, now it is a case of if you don't pay you will be harmed.

You can extrapolate that to all levels of Gov't.

Sunshine laws are the best way to control but you need newspapers to be strong enough to publish and prosecuters honest rnough to prosecute.

Guest's picture
Dave

Well, living in one of those countries that everyone agrees is corrupt top to bottom, I have too much real world experience in this.

When corruption gets really bad, it starts at the top and spreads down. The kind that starts at the bottom doesn't usually become so broad, as the top keeps it somewhat under control. But when the top is involved, it goes throughout.

I understand Phillip's scale of "what I can see" corruption, but would argue that it is not the real problem. In Kenya, traffic cops shake down commuters, not a big problem. However, when senior gov. officials use their power to dictate who can buy and sell grain, driving the price of flour up over 100% and emptying the shelves of stores, the poor can not eat.

Finally, as another well off white guy, I shall his experience of not being asked for too (loosely defined) many bribes. My black wife, moving in the same world I do, has a much worse time of it. Also, I can handle the price of bread going up, but my nanny can not. How bad corruption is depends a lot on who you are and how society treats you.

On a lighter note, I once paid a bribe, but did not realize I was doing so! I actually thought that the cop was serious when he told me I could leave a deposit and pick it up later...

Guest's picture
Jesse

Corruption in America is when my husband's Aunt was hit by a wealthy Texas socialite's daughter, suffered whiplash and had to wear a neck brace to court, and the judge dismissed the case because it could hurt the girl's Ivy league college chances, and the Aunt in question had to basically swallow the bills.

Corruption in America is when the cops in a small town in Missouri will constantly harass certain drug dealers in town (though I don't agree with doing drugs, this is still a point), yet when two of their own are caught in a "compromising position" while on the clock and in uniform (and one is drunk, to boot) in a park they both had to DRIVE to (DWI), the most that they get is one is fired, and the other gets a small note on her service record. The male in question then went on (with good recommendation) to another police force in the area, while the woman is still (to the best of my knowledge) on the force.

Corruption in America is when the son of the high school principal gets together with 3 of his Varsity Basketball buddies and STEALS THE TENNIS SHOES of the opposing team from their locker room, and through mere apology and return of said shoes, can go on being on the Varsity team, suffering nothing from police or suspension from school.

Corruption in America is when you are of a minority religion in the military (and I'd hardly call being Catholic - which I was at the time - a minority!), and EVERYONE harasses you for not being of the majority religion, attending the services that the majority do, or even reading books or watching movies that aren't considered good. (i.e. The DaVinci Code comes to mind first) The drill sergeants openly berated those of Pagan beliefs, the Protestant chaplain openly harassed the Catholics about not attending his service (or when we DID, about how we didn't immediately dance in the aisles), Buddhists didn't even TALK about their religion (unless they knew you wouldn't persecute them), and Atheists had to be PERFECT at everything for fear of being taken to task and possibly reprimanded, or skipped over for promotions. And trust me, though I'm out now, no matter what they say, it's NOT getting better!

And finally, corruption comes in smaller cases as well: when you don't do what's socially accepted. I am a stay at home mom. I LIKE to do what I'm doing. And I have no problems with those who work and put their kids in daycare/pre-school/what have you. And yet, when you go to the DMV, or to get a house loan, or even talking with (some) women who DO work, you're given the "Jeez, you're so lazy!" look, and then, in certain cases (like, the house loan, for instance) they won't even consider you because you don't have an income (though the fact that what income you MIGHT have would all go to daycare for the child isn't taken into consideration then!). If you're overweight in America (even though they now say that rates of obesity are climbing), people will treat you differently, refuse you a job, give you bad service, demean you - and no one holds them to task. Or if you're older and want to work - you're more likely (from what I've seen) to be laid off, even if you know more than the CEO about what you're doing, and never went to college!

So I don't think that corruption of a country only comes in monetary form, though that is the widely accepted definition. I have to agree with Jim here (#19). Corruption also occurs in the thoughts and actions, even when money isn't a factor, BECAUSE of people placed in power positions. These are all cases I've either personally seen, or personally experienced, and that leads to the belief that there are MANY more, and many more varied, cases. Would I leave America? No, of course not, for all her faults, I LOVE the bonuses. The short time I was in the Military (6 yrs Guard, 2 reserve) was BECAUSE I love the idea of America. I don't think passing new laws will change the attitudes of Americans, but I DO think that we have to speak out against it when we can. And while I PERSONALLY think that the Capitalistic system we have lead to being, in it's nature, flawed and power-hungry, I don't have a viable alternative that would NOT lend itself to those who seek power.

P.S. Sorry about the length *grin*

Philip Brewer's picture

@Jesse:

Some of those may be corruption, but others may not be--they may simply be bad or unfair results (which happen all the time, even with no corruption at all).

Take the car accident, for example.  Because I ride my bicycle for transportation, I'm very aware of just how lenient the law is with people who have car accidents.  Where I live, for example, a woman recently killed a bicyclist when she got distracted downloading ringtones to her phone and swerved onto the shoulder.  She wasn't charged with negligent homicide, though; she was charged with improper lane usage and fined $1000.

The bicycling community was outraged.  The prosecutor, though, said that's how the law was interpreted in Illinois--and I believe it, because I've seen this happen before.  And it's not due to corruption.  It's due to the fact that almost everyone is a driver.  Anyone who has driven more than a few thousand miles has made a mistake that could have caused a serious accident.  Most of those accidents were avoided--but only because some other driver was alert and prevented it.  Because of that, every judge, every lawyer, every police officer, and (especially) every jury member knows that it could have been them accidentally injuring or killing someone.  That makes them quite willing to go easy on people who cause car accidents (as long as they weren't under the influence, and as long as they don't have a long history of causing accidents).

Similarly with the job action--maybe corruption, but maybe just coming up with the cheapest way to deal with unsatisfactory behavior by employees.  I've worked places where having sex on the job might well not have gotten anyone fired.

It's corruption when people get favorable treatment because they're rich or have the right skin color or right last name or look pretty or offer cash or favors of one kind or another--and any of your examples may well have been a result of corruption.  But any of them might not have been.  Pointing to poor folks or folks who belong to the wrong ethnic group who don't get such favorable treatment is suggestive, but even that isn't proof of corruption.

Having said all that, I agree with you that people in power need to be held to a higher standard than they are.  I just think that unfair results don't prove corruption.

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afraidtotalktostrangers

Mexico is the worst when it comes to corruption. Just last week a top federal security chief has been arrested due to accept from drug cartels 450,000 dollars monthly to let them work. Here when drug cartels gonna get kill a person, usually cops run away from the place, 'cause they know what's gonna happen beforehand. People get killed everyday, and no person is arrested, and won't be, cause 90% of police is related in one way or another to organized crime. Tht's why this country never ever will grow as a first world country. cause mexican people (included myself) never will be completly honest to accept the truth of this country. Sorry for the far cry, but sometimes it angers me to the point of getaway family included to another country. Cannot be worst in USA or Canada or another first world country. Americans should be proud of their country, even when sometimes some kind of corruption is known thru the news, is minimal compared to other countries like ours.

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AnnJo

The kind of over-the-top anti-American bigotry and hatred of "Low Corruption Canadian" is reminiscent of the kind of pro-Soviet propaganda spread during the Cold War.

Whose "educational legacy" was Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, or for that matter, Barack Obama?

"Pay or die?" Any homeless bum who gets hit by a truck in any major American city is likely to get the best emergency trauma care availabale in the world.

Tax policy makes the American middle class "work more for less?" Lie if it makes you feel better. The truth is that Americans work more for MORE, and because we can, unlike the countries of our critics, where unemployment is always double our own, work has to be rationed because there's so little of it to go around, and large numbers of people (probably including Low Corruption Canadian) never hold a real job.

As for the way we "treat other nations and international organizations," all I can say is, "I wish." I wish we would stop throwing money away on the UN and its innumerable hangers-on. I wish we could "extort" so much as a Thank You note from the countries we've defended, protected or liberated at the cost of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of American lives.

"Low Corruption Canadian" might have been happier with the Third Reich, or the old Soviet Union as the world's superpower, or may prefer China today, or an Islamic Caliphate tomorrow. Too bad he's stuck with us, for all our flaws. And too bad we're stuck with him, who will not be satisfied until we are destroyed, with no thought to who will fill the gap we leave behind. Whick, by the way, won't be Canada, Denmark, New Zealand or Sweden.

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Guest

Corruption in small town Pleasant Hill Missouri. Good old boy system. Man died leaving his finance that he was getting ready to marry millions of dollars he had in about 8 trusts and farmland plus more. The will was changed behind his lawyers back because he suspected corruption and had it changed to leave it to the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with and kids he wanted to adopt. He tells his finance before he goes on a trip to Disney land that he was getting ready to expose alot of corruption but that if he did, that he could be dead within side a week. He would not tell her what it concerned to protect her. They get back and he dies within the next day from "prescription drug mixture and heart attack". The lawyer fired the person in charge of trust and squanders away the money and hiding paperwork trail of everything the deceased man owns except for the farm and keeps saying there is no money. His finance is a single mom and has no money to fight it. They know this and there is many people involved. Finds out that somehow before death, lawyer somehow got her finance pronounced legally mentally incapable and he took over the trusts. (worth millions) She is harrased along with her son by law enforcement when she was fighting for his wishes and their dream. So corrupt she cant find a lawyer that will touch it and is looking bleak to find a lawyer to help. She has documents they do not have proving his trusts but no one will help. Judges, police, lawyers, who is not involved? Crazy. Greed of money. Where is this money going if she is being told that there is no money and now the farm's taxes are not paid and it will be going on the courthouse steps and she cant do anything about it even though it was all willed to her. Does not make sense but it is happening.

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Suzanne

Wait till you here about the Philippines. Organized crime by politicians,police , you name it , yes we have it. No value for life. Its a jungle out here. Movie stars wanting to become politicians because of the corruption. Its easy money.