© 2010 World Policy Institute
DANIEL KAUFMANN ON STATE CAPTURE
Crime and corruption do not always co-exist,
share the same determinants, or respond to the
same strategies and measures. A corrupt and
authoritarian police state can control common
crime, as in North Korea. Conversely, common
crime can be a challenge to countries with satis-
factory anti-corruption track records, like Chile.
Crime rates tend to be higher where there is
high unemployment, high socio-economic in-
equality, and lax gun laws. Corruption thrives
where civil liberties, free press, transparency,
and contestable politics are absent. A function-
ing rule of law matters for controlling both
crime and corruption, but again differences
emerge: an independent judiciary is crucial for
combating political corruption; an effective po-
lice is important for fighting petty corruption
as well as common crime. There are also differ-
ences between the determinants of common
crime and organized crime, since the latter
does relate to corruption.
Most research on corruption focuses on de-
veloping countries, which is unfortunate. When
corruption indexes focus exclusively on cruder
forms of corruption (what we think of as typical
cases of bribery), they mask one of the most seri-
ous governance challenges facing countries like
the United States today—so-called legal corrup-
tion and state capture by powerful corporations.
(For evidence of this, one need only look to the
undue influence exerted by Wall Street and
mortgage giants over regulations leading up to
the financial crisis, or by giant carmakers over
THE BIG QUESTION
HOW CAN NATIONSBREAK THE CYCLE
OF CRIME AND CORRUPTION?
At length Corruption, like a gen’ral flood
(So long by watchful Ministers withstood),
Shall deluge all; and Avarice creeping on,
Spread like a low-born mist, and blot the Sun.
Moral Essays (ep. III, l. 135)
If not quite as apocalyptic as Pope would have us believe, corruption and crime all too often drag
nations into a cycle of deprivation and wanton greed—companies bribing bureaucrats in exchange
for lucrative contracts, petty graft greasing the palms of low-level civil servants, and powerful
politicians enriching themselves at the expense of their people and the advancement of society.
How do nations, especially developing ones, escape this swamp?
World Policy Journal
a panel of experts to weigh in on the challenges.