14 Feb 2011

on Perception and Other Monsters

Is the world really more corrupt today? A simple search on Google by „accused of corruption December 13” returns 10 different corruption related scandals published today only in the first 2 pages. Namibia, Mozambique, Uzbekistan, India, Croatia, all had today as front story some local high rank official being allegedly corrupt, prosecuted or arrested for corruption acts. On December 9, 2010, Transparency International was launching the Global Corruption Barometer, showing that worldwide people believe today less than ever in anti-corruption efforts. In other words, today the world is perceived to be more corrupt than ever while we are less equipped to do anything about it. But is that true? If anything, then after my Google search I would be tempted to say exactly the contrary: the world has never been so free of corruption because we have never been as ready as we are now to address its challenges. This goes beyond the mere half-full, half-empty glass dilemma.

It is at this point unavoidable to ask the question that everyone seems to be shuffling around these days: should there be any boundaries to free access to public information? I cannot stop thinking that the way that the citizens in many of the transition countries see the public today is significantly different from the way they saw it 10 or 20 years ago. The acknowledgement of the “public” as “one’s own” goes hand in hand with the perception that the ownership boundaries are crossed once public funds are misused, while freedom of information has matched rights to access the public space with the capacity to question its use. So can it be that today corruption is perceived to be more pervasive than ever just because we have access to more information than ever? Is not knowing even an option? If increased access to information is causing a measurement bias, then can it be fixed? Is corruption research still valid when you cannot do anything to minimize the cost that perception has on reality?

Author: Sinziana – Elena Poiana

*Disclaimer: This article presents the views of the author and it is not the official position of the institutions supporting this project.