Understanding corruption — how it arises and why some countries are more corrupt than others — has always been difficult for sociologists. But now, researchers at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, have found a positive correlation between a country's level of perceived corruption and its level of economic development. 

The study defines corruption as the use of public power for the purpose of private benefit and categorizes countries into four distinct clusters. To understand how countries are perceived in terms of corruption, researchers gathered data from sources like the African Development Bank and the Economist Intelligence Unit. They also relied on the opinions of experts who assess corruption levels.

Cluster 1, perceived as the least corrupt, includes countries like the US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. The average GDP per capita of these countries is $52,138.

Cluster 2 is comprised of European countries like Malta, Slovenia, Cyprus, Spain, and Portugal; the African country of Botswana; and oil exporters such as Oman and Kuwait. This group's average GDP per capita is $23,521.

Cluster 3, the second-to-most corrupt group, includes Greece and Italy (currently facing serious economic problems); post-communist countries like Czech Republic, Poland, and Latvia; and most of North Africa (Morocco, Egypt, and Tunisia). Per capita GDP of this group is $9,751.

Cluster 4, a collection of states perceived as the most corrupt with an average GDP of just $3,888, includes Russia, China, and India, as well as smaller African states and many Latin American countries.

Corruption is a tricky thing to measure, however, especially since those who are acting corrupt spend a great deal of energy either hiding it or disguising it as something benign. Harvard Professor and political activist Lawrence Lessig explains that the US falls into the latter category, keeping up democratic airs while permitting public power to benefit private interests:


 

Read more at MIT Technology Review

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