• Rose Smith

Dealings behind Closed Doors—Government Corruption and How It’s Measured


Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

There is a very common adage that “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” For some, this can come in the form of government corruption and using a position of power to receive extra kickbacks or money. Corruption can come in different forms, but no matter what, it adversely affects the growth and development of countries. Luckily, certain organizations such as Transparency International works to spot and help try to stop instances of government corruption.

To be able to spot corruption, we must be able to define it. On a basic level, corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. It can also take different forms, and there is some disagreement over how to distinguish types of corruption (Morris, Forms of Corruption). For instance, upper and lower corruption depends on who is doing the act. Upper-level corruption is corruption done by higher ranking officials, and lower-level corruption is the corruption done by civil servants. Another approach is dividing corruption in to petty corruption and grand corruption. Petty corruption is when an official asks for routine transactions of small amounts, such as if a government agent forced you to pay an extra amount of money every time you went to get drivers’ license renewed. Grand corruption, on the other hand, involves less frequent but larger transactions. This would be the case when an organization bribes a legislator to tip the laws in the organization’s favor. No matter what type it falls under, there are assorted negative consequences of corruption. Directly, corruption effects a country on an economic level. When different individuals purposely pocket resources and money, then that money won’t go back into the economy or go towards important infrastructure such as schools or roads (Transparency International). It also sets back the country socially. When citizens are aware of rampant corruption, they are less trusting of their government and become apathetic to making a change. Another important thing about countries with high rates of corruptions drive away foreign investors because they don't want to put their money into countries that will keep siphoning from the money the investors give for their own interests.

In an attempt to spot and hopefully correct corruption, an organization called Transparency International has a “Corruptions Perception Index,” which scores and ranks countries by the amount of corruption present in their governments and institutions. While the organization does not make it clear on its website how they get to the numbers they give countries (other than the fact they use reliable data sources to make data), it is implied that they take aspects of the government such as the judicial system, infrastructure, and transparency into account. The score goes up to 100, with 100 being the least corrupt and 0 being the most. According to the most recent measurements, New Zealand and Denmark are tied for first place with scores of 88. The most corrupt country is Somalia with a score of 12. The United States currently stands in 25th place with a score of 67. Its rank had actually slipped; the United States used to be in 18th place with a score of 74 in 2018. Transparency International hopes to use this index and other sorts of journalistic reporting to try to fight corruption by exposing expensive deals that would otherwise be left in the dark.

Corruption is an illegal action that ends up dragging down the growth of countries and causes economic, social, and political damage to a country. Corruption can manifest in different manners, such as higher or lower level corruption or petty and grand corruption. While it can be difficult to uproot political corruption, especially if it has been long-running, it is not impossible. In fact, according to the 2020 Index, overall, corruption scores have actually gone up (remember, the higher the score, the lower the corruption in the country), even if the average is still a measly 43 out of 100. Organizations such as Transparency International try to help alleviate corruption by empowering citizens, releasing information regarding under-the-table dealings, and making sure that figures are held accountable for their actions. Doing so will help advance the world as we know it, for countries will be able to more easily improve its economy and infrastructure.

If you want to learn more about government corruption and Transparency International, you can check out Transparency International's site here.

Rose Smith is the blog editor of Twenty-two Twenty-eight. When she isn’t writing about the world around her, she is often found listening to music, watching movies, and going on walks with her dogs.

You can find her on Instagram here and on Twitter here.