How do you get rid of corruption?
October 19, 2010 11:03 AM   Subscribe

Is there good examples of countries which have successfully fought corruption?

The issue of corruption has been on my mind lately, especially after reading a number of different things like Michael Lewis story about Greece, and I was trying to think of countries that have successfully gotten cleaned up their systems. The only examples I could think of was when there were radical shifts from authoritarian systems to more democratic ones (Eastern Europe, after the fall of communism, for instance), but I'm really curious to hear about countries that didn't go through radical shifts like that.

Are there any good case studies of countries where the government were able to significantly decrease corruption by implementing good policies?
posted by gkhan to Law & Government (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
India is doing some fantastic things
posted by Blasdelb at 11:16 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are you only interested in countries, or smaller units as well? Of course I don't have anything to hand, but stories of how states/provinces, city governments, etc., have cleaned up corruption are often instructive and interesting.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:33 AM on October 19, 2010

Look no further than the good ol' U.S. of A.

The Ulysses Grant administration was arguably the most corrupt in American history. Grant himself was either ineffective in dealing with it, or an outright contributor.

The succeeding administration of Rutherford B. Hayes took several steps in the right direction, culminating in the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act that ended the "spoils system," as it was known back then.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:34 AM on October 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

I may be wrong but I recall that driving into Mexico in the 1970s and 1980s Americans were usually advised to bring bribe money. Now it appears that it's not such a problem anymore, though I'm aware it persists in some areas. Granted, that's not a government-wide change, but it's one possible angle. You might also want to check trends for specific countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index measured over a long term stretch and then research those further.
posted by crapmatic at 12:12 PM on October 19, 2010

Singapore has turned things around completely since the colonial period or immediately post independence through to the present.
posted by Ahab at 1:19 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

The (US) Untouchables come to mind.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:26 PM on October 19, 2010

In most countries during Communism, corruption was prevalent. But for the most part, it was pretty petty stuff - some cash to doctors or nurses for more responsive medical care, small gifts of cash or food items for favoured treatment and that sort of thing. Since Communism, the scale of individual corrupt acts can be astronomical, where individuals garner millions of dollars or more, which would have been unthinkable before. I think your premise that greater democracy has meant less corruption in former Communist countries is faulty . . . the number of acts may be smaller, but the cost of corruption to the country as a whole is, generally, much, much bigger. The recent "red sludge" incident in Hungary is a pretty good example of a situation where individuals have been able to profit via corruption in a way not possible before 1989 or 1990.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 1:31 PM on October 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

I can't point you to a specific article (sorry) but from what I understand, Colombia has really turned itself around. It's not like it was in the 1980's.
posted by kat518 at 1:42 PM on October 19, 2010

I wasn't there at the time, but I understand that Queensland was a corrupt, quasi-fascist police state until the Fitzgerald Inquiry helped get rid of the Joh Bjelke-Petersen government.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 1:51 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Reform Act of 1832 cleaned up the rotten boroughs of the UK; the subsequent Ballot Act introduced the secret ballot, crippling the ability to treat (i.e. bribe) or blackmail voters.

The Cardwell Reforms ended the practise of gentlemen with no millitary expertise purchasing comissions in the British armed forces.
posted by rodgerd at 1:54 AM on October 20, 2010

Hong Kong, while not a country, had a lot of success with the introduction of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
posted by quidividi at 6:47 AM on October 20, 2010

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