America’s Falling Corruption Rankings

A striking fact from Eduardo Porter:

In 2001, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranked the United States as the 16th least-corrupt country. By last year, the nation had fallen to 24th place. The World Bank also reports a weakening of corruption controls in the United States since the late 1990s, so that it is falling behind most other developed nations.

Whether or not your government works effectively is probably more important than the wisdom or lack thereof of any stated policy. As I wrote yesterday this is the biggest weakness in the philosophy of profit-maximization and shareholder value. A well-functioning market economy in many ways depends on a normative superstructure that’s eroded by the ethic of money-making by any means necessary. When firm managers believe it is not only permissable but obligatory to engage in fraudulent and corrupt practices and to exert time and energy into rent-seeking, you ultimately destroy the background conditions of prosperity.