In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

341 The policeman who“charges”drivers for non-existent infractions, the customs official who “under-invoices” a shipment of tractor parts and splits the difference with an importer, the office-bound bureaucrat who gives permits for foreign currency to favored businessmen for “a consideration,” and the high-ranking cabinet minister who prefers one supplier of fighter aircraft or naval frigates over another in exchange for serious “rents” are each behaving rationally by cheating their governments and the citizens that they are pledged to serve. They are all corrupt and corrupted, certainly, but by adopting a conscious strategy of self-enrichment through corrupt behavior they are merely following national norms that are sanctioned by leadership failures. They take their behavioral cues from their official superiors. Lesser officials and politicians steal from the state and cheat their fellow citizens because of a prevailing permissive ethos. If their immediate superiors steal and cheat, lower-ranked civil servants and security personnel believe that they, too, have a license to enrich themselves corruptly. Farther up the scale, too, middle-ranking government officials of all kinds look to their heads of state and cabinet ministers to see what they can “get away with.” Once it becomes known that certain kinds or all kinds of corrupt behavior are acceptable , then all self-interested maximizers (nearly all of us) will hardly want to miss good opportunities to secure and then to employ official positions for private gain. Whatever one’s views of human nature and human fallibility, if the prevailing political culture tolerates corruption, nearly everyone will seek opportunities to be corrupt. Such political cultures are determined, especially in new nation-states, by leadership signals, leadership postures, and leadership failures of omission and commission.1 13 Leadership Alters Corrupt Behavior robert i. rotberg 13 0328-0 ch13.qxd 7/15/09 3:51 PM Page 341 342 Robert I. Rotberg Conversely, where top leaders are uncorrupted and where top leaders act effectively and decisively against corruption by punishing misbehaving colleagues and relentlessly pursuing miscreants, a governmental culture of abstinence can be created that positively rewards honesty and integrity. That kind of culture is hardly the norm throughout the developing world, indeed throughout the entire world, but there are sufficient successes—a number of states where corruption has been eschewed—to support the notion that sincerely anti-corrupt leaders can influence the official behavior of entire leadership cohorts and of whole countries. What Lee Kuan Yew did in Singapore and Seretse Khama did in Botswana can be emulated everywhere if leaders choose to lead responsibly. Unfortunately, the evidence for all of these assertions about human behavior —about the predominant influence that proactive and venal leadership has on the incidence and aggregation of corrupt practice—is largely anecdotal . The man on the beat says that he steals and cheats because everyone else does and that he does not want to be left out of a chance to supplement his meager salary. The cabinet minister in charge of public works or capital projects reports that he is expected, as the incumbent in such a position, to produce rents that can be shared with other cabinet ministers and possibly with his heads of government and of state. Burmese generals posted to frontier sinecures where gem and opium smuggling is rife and interdiction possibilities and corrupt partnerships are easy are expected to share their returns with their superiors and with the ruling junta. Those who procure arms or otherwise arrange large contracts with foreign suppliers cannot pocket all of the ill-achieved wealth themselves; they are expected to enrich others within their official hierarchies.2 How else can corrupt heads of state build local palaces and purchase mansions overseas? Where do the funds come from that are so blithely stashed in overseas banking havens by the likes of Sani Abacha of Nigeria, Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe? Admittedly, there is a hoary argument that corruption in Africa, at least, is merely an outgrowth of traditional forms of culturally sanctioned giftexchanges . Or corrupt practices and corrupt varieties of nepotism can be said reasonably to reflect customary respect for kinship obligations that, yes, flout Western expectations but are traditionally approved. Loyalties in many new societies run to the clan or lineage, not to the proto-nation or any national commonweal. In other words, public values confront family values and the latter understandably triumph—even when large-scale venal corruption 13 0328-0 ch13.qxd 7/15/09 3:51 PM...


Additional Information

MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.