Corruption as policy failure

The Panama Leaks or the Volkswagen emissions scandal highlighted even for the more optimistic the danger entailed by the generalization of corrupt practices. Legal scholars tend to see corruption merely as an individual deviation from a well-enshrined norm of public integrity. From a public policy perspective, however, corruption is a concern due to its systemic character. It constitutes a reversal of governance norms we consider as modern and rational, and results in irrational spending, vicious circles of economic stagnation, and hindrance of both merit and innovation.

Less than a third of the countries in the world can claim to have reached reasonable control of corruption, although imperfect, and for more than two thirds of countries, corruption is the rule of the game.

On paper, over 160 countries have signed the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), pledging to ethical universalism, integrity, transparency, accountability, and public consultation. This means that citizens of these countries and the international community are entitled to demand good government. In principle and in detail, there has never been so much universal agreement on what good governance is. But with the advent of globalization and economic crises, we have, in practice, witnessed a backslide even in more advanced democracies - with connections disputing merit as the main source of social advancement, coupled with abuse of public authority frequently being the number one source of wealth.

This class defines corruption from a policy perspective, explains how to diagnose and measure it, assesses consequences for public spending and essential policy sectors (such as health and education), but also for the type of society and capitalism we live in. A full assessment of evidence-based solutions is also introduced and students are taught to use a toolkit that enables the diagnosis and individually tailored solutions fitting particular contexts.