Why do some societies manage to control corruption so it manifests itself only occasionally, as an exception, while other societies do not and remain systemically corrupt? And is the superior performance of this first group of countries a result of what they do or of who they are? Most current anticorruption strategies presume the former, which is why institutions from developed and well-governed countries are currently being copied all around the world. At least on paper, there are few states left that are missing a constitutional court, some form of checks and balances, or an ombudsman (the number of countries with these elements grew from 47 in 1990, 100 in 2003 and 135 by 2008). Skeptics, on the other hand, endorse the latter view, believing in the cultural determinism of corruption and good governance. More recently, following the failure of the first generation of anticorruption reforms, a middle-ground position has begun to emerge: that the most relevant lessons lie not in what developed countries are currently doing to control corruption but rather in what they have done in thepast, when their societies more strongly resembled the conditions in today’s developing world (Andrews 2008). However, as this subject area is largely unknown to governance scholars and practitioners alike, it is difficult even to estimate the potential value of such historical lessons. I plan to address this gap by asking not how corruption is eradicated but rather how societies have built—over time—systems to protect their common resources from being spoiled by individuals or groups.
Why has the EU succeeded in promoting democracy in the new member states but failed in promoting good governance? This essay seeks to answer this question first by distinguishing governance from political regimes, and second by exploring to what extent national governance—which is defined as the set of formal and informal institutions that determine who gets what in a given country—is susceptible to being improved by external pressure or intervention. It concludes that improving governance remains a challenge even for the democratic character of the European project.
Transparency scores in Uruguay have improved in the last fifteen years in both absolute and comparative terms. This paper argues that this change is the result of a long-run process of transformation in Uruguayan politics from competitive particularism to an open access regime. First, this paper briefly reviews the political and institutional changes that led governance in Uruguay to be based on universalistic norms. Next, it uses public opinion and elite survey data to provide descriptive evidence about citizen perceptions of levels of corruption. Third, the paper uses media data to explore the place that corruption held in the public agenda during the last fifteen years. Finally, using court records, it evaluates the efficacy of existing structures to punish abuses. These analyses help to clarify the main features that lie behind the categorization of Uruguay as a contemporary achiever in terms of government transparency.
This paper deals with the post-communist positive outlier Estonia, which made according to international comparisons perhaps the most spectacular progress in the world, from a totalitarian regime to a quality democracy in less than twenty years. The country has seen improvement in all four dimensions of control of corruption described in the equilibrium model of Alina Mungiu-Pippidi (2011) since the restoration of its independence in 1991. The changes in the different dimensions happened almost simultaneously. During the first government of Mart Laar (1992-1995), policies that reduced material resources and strengthened legal constraints were implemented. Estonia pioneered important liberal reforms, for instance the adoption of a flat tax which then became very trendy in Eastern Europe and a very advanced e-government inspired from the neighbouring Finland. It also had the most radical policy towards Soviet time judiciary, replacing most of it and restarting practically all over with new magistrates. Normative constraints are also high, with a public opinion intolerant of particularism, an active civil society and a free press. The paper tries to explain why Estonian elites succeeded in promoting good governance and anti-corruption measures more than most other Central and Eastern European countries. In addition, author is looking for integrative understanding how to improve the control of political and administrative corruption mechanisms via the better regulation measures (e.g. impact assessment, participation, simplification) and support of political motivation.
Political corruption poses a serious threat to democracy and its consolidation. Many anticorruption initiatives fail because they are nonpolitical in nature, while most of the corruption in developing and postcommunist countries is inherently political. Successfully fighting this kind of corruption requires far more than instituting best practices from advanced democracies. Electoral revolutions can lead to consolidated democracies only if they are followed by revolutions against particularism. Nothing short of such a revolution will succeed in curbing corruption in countries where particularism prevails.