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Corrupt this!

from David Ruccio

I know all about how corrupt a city can by. I live in Chicago, the “Capital of Corruption.”

And I hear all the time about all those other corrupt cities, most of them located in countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, which often fall low in the corruption perceptions indices like the one produced by Transparency International.

But for all the talk about transparency and the need to tackle corruption at the 2016 Anti-Corruption Summit in London, the host country itself may be the most corrupt in the world.

As Joel Benjamin [ht: ja] explains, the indices produced and disseminated by groups like Transparency International “only measure perceived corruption based upon the abuse of public office for private gain, i.e. the payment of bribes.” What they don’t account for is the fact that “While nepotism and subservience to finance capital is rife in Britain and its overseas dependencies, it is not illegal.”

At least Chicago’s corruption is transparent. Donate to the mayor’s campaign chest and you get a city contract or assistance with a development project. In the city of London (and other such financial centers in Britain, the United States, and Western Europe), corruption is based on money laundering and financial secrecy.  


And if we measure those forms of corruption, then (as with the Financial Secrecy Index developed by the Tax Justice Network) the tables (so to speak) are turned: Switzerland ends up at the top, the United States rises to number 3, and the United Kingdom rounds out the top 15.

If anything, the bribing of public officials in Chicago, Lagos, Bogotá, and Bangalore is quite transparent—and often involves the siphoning-off of some of the surplus from the initial appropriators to their friends in high places in order to keep doing business. The corruption in Geneva, London, and New York is something quite different and even more pernicious: it involves the laundering of the surplus captured from the entire world so that the economic and political elites who capture it get to keep it and accumulate even more wealth, for themselves and their friends in high places.

All of it legal—and fundamentally corrupt.

  1. June 24, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    Perhaps the most tragic type of corruption is deceiving public into making wars, destroying millions of lives to make millions of dollars. In a slip, Madeleine Allbright actually acknowledged this in public, calculating that killing half a million Iraqi children was a price worth paying for profits. See my earlier post on the Business of War for more examples. Of course, this does not get counted anywhere in a corruption index.

  2. June 25, 2016 at 6:02 am

    “After his election in 1932, FDR met with Sidney Hillman and other labor leaders, many of them active Socialists with whom he had worked over the past decade or more. Hillman and his allies arrived with plans regarding labor discrimination they wanted the new President to implement. Roosevelt told them: “I cannot agree to your plans, now make me do it.” FDR simply meant this is the heart of democracy. Democracy is about forcing administrators and legislators “to do it.” The paying of bribes, laundering money, and exchanging favors for votes are simply other alternatives to accomplish this same end. So are over subscribing the labor needs for certain projects (i.e., hiring workers that do no work) and keeping certain groups from working in certain professions. The objections to these actions are moral. They offend some people’s moral principles. But they are still part of the development of just about every democratic society. Before most societies became democratic the same events occurred in monarchies, corporate states, and theocracy. Makes me believe they are actions often pursued by humans, inside and outside of democracy. Also makes me wonder if it’s wise for democratic nations to attempt to stamp them out.

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