How Corrupt Are American Companies Overseas?

Despite recent cases involving Walmart and JP Morgan, government regulation has kept business abroad relatively clean. Rather than loosen those regulations, other countries should follow suit. 

What's the Latest Development?

Last month, Walmart was accused of bribing Mexican officials to let the company expand faster than the process of securing permits would allow. Prior to that, JP Morgan and several Hollywood film studios were implicating in paying bribes to open up the Chinese real-estate and movie markets, respectively. But despite these high-profile cases, American business abroad has never been cleaner, says James Surowiecki. That's thanks to the Bush and Obama administrations who have sought tougher enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which banned the bribery of foreign public officials in 1977.

What's the Big Idea?

For countries like India, which have no anti-bribery laws, or Russia and China, which do not enforce theirs, greasing the palms of foreign officials is considered a cost of doing international business. Some American academics, notably Samuel Huntington, agree. In developing countries with "hypertrophied bureaucracies", might bribes be an acceptable way to encourage commerce? It might be in the short-run, says Surowiecki, but in the long-run, bribes create financial incentives for bureaucracies to create more red tape. Rather than loosen regulation against corruption, the US should persuade others to fight against it. 

Photo credit:

Car culture and suburbs grow right-wing populism, claims study

New research links urban planning and political polarization.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Canadian researchers find that excessive reliance on cars changes political views.
  • Decades of car-centric urban planning normalized unsustainable lifestyles.
  • People who prefer personal comfort elect politicians who represent such views.
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller on ​the multiple dimensions of space and human sexuality

Science and the squishiness of the human mind. The joys of wearing whatever the hell you want, and so much more.

Flickr / 13winds
Think Again Podcasts
  • Why can't we have a human-sized cat tree?
  • What would happen if you got a spoonful of a neutron star?
  • Why do we insist on dividing our wonderfully complex selves into boring little boxes
Keep reading Show less