Corruption is both a major cause and a result of poverty around the world. It occurs at all levels of society, from local and national governments, civil society, judiciary functions, large and small businesses, military and other services and so on. Corruption affects the poorest the most, in rich or poor nations, though all elements of society are affected in some way as corruption undermines political development, democracy, economic development, the environment, people’s health and more. Joseph stiglitz books pdf map of the 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International.
Blue indicates less perception of corruption, whereas red indicates higher perception of corruption. The issue of corruption is very much inter-related with other issues. A difficult thing to measure or compare, however, is the impact of corruption on poverty versus the effects of inequalities that are structured into law, such as unequal trade agreements, structural adjustment policies, so-called free trade agreements and so on. It is easier to see corruption.
It is harder to see these other more formal, even legal forms of corruption. That is not to belittle the issue of corruption, however, for its impacts are enormous too. Yet, corruption is not something limited to third world despots. Rich countries too have been involved in corrupt practices around the world. The corruption-inducing effects of the purchase, by the rich countries and their international corporations, of concessions in Third World countries to exploit natural deposits of oil, copper, gold, diamonds and the like.
Neild suggests that international law and national laws in rich countries that prohibit drugs may serve to produce a scarcity value irresistible to producers, smugglers and dealers. Governments and civil society in the third world are often undermined, sometimes destroyed by the violence and corruption that goes with the drug trade. This is probably the most important way in which the policies of rich countries foster corruption and violence. Bribery may be pervasive, but it is difficult to detect. Many Western companies do not dirty their own hands, but instead pay local agents, who get a 10 per cent or so success fee if a contract goes through and who have access to the necessary slush funds to ensure that it does. Until recently, bribery was seen as a normal business practice. Many Western covert and overt military operation were motivated, in part at least, by the view, which may have been fearfully exaggerated, that the West’s supplies of raw materials and oil were threatened by communist intrusion into Third World countries.