16 December 2005

The Corruption Trap

Another to-the-point mini-lecture from Arnold Kling at Tech Central Station:

Iraq and the Corruption Trap (http://www.techcentralstation.com/120705A.html).

His thesis is that the one crucial indicator for success or failure in Iraq is:

The percentage of Iraqi government officials who abide by the law in their work


The corruption trap helps explain why bad government tends to stay bad. Russia and other former Soviet republics appear to be caught in the corruption trap. The corruption trap may explain the perennial disappointment in many African and Latin American countries. Conversely, economic growth in Asia may reflect an escape from the corruption trap.

On the other hand, good government tends to stay good -- not perfect, but good. Once the public comes to expect honesty, this expectation becomes self-reinforcing. Corrupt officials are exposed and denounced. Periodic reforms and house-cleanings address the worst offenses.

Interesting idea:

Kling refers to himself in What Causes Prosperity? where he argues that economic growth requires 3 ethics (hey! this sounds like the Chinese Communist Party):

1. Work ethic
2. Learning ethic
3. Public service ethic (i.e. public officials are more likely than not to obey the law)

I must agree.


Kling must have been in a rush because America did not bail out of Vietnam in 1975 but in 1971, 2 or 3 (I have to check my facts too).

And he needs to limit his use of "my guess is".

- Patrick Henry


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