Korruption wird, seit es Transparency International gibt, als Problem von Entwicklungsländern angesehen, das in westlichen Industrienationen selten bis kaum vorzufinden ist. Dass dem so ist, liegt an der Definition von Korruption, die Transparency International verwendet und der Art und Weise, in der Korruption gemessen wird.
Nimmt man ökonomische Gewissheiten zum Ausgangspunkt, dann kann Korruption in dem endemischen Maße gefasst werden, in dem sie tatsächlich und in allen Staaten gegeben ist:
“New evidence of corruption by leading politicians and businessmen is surfacing in virtually every corner of the globe. The list of kickback, payoff, and bribery scandals seems endless: Korea, Japan, Mexico, and Nigeria are in the news now, but few countries have escaped unscathed. There is no magic bullet to cure this disease. Nevertheless, much smaller, democratic, and businesslike governments would help a lot.
People like to think the bribery in their country is unique – that their politicians, bureaucrats, and businesspeople are especially venal. But the source of official corruption is the same everywhere: large governments with the power to dispense many goodies to different groups.
Every regulation, law, and public program, whether it’s a government contract or an export subsidy, can be manipulated to favour particular interests. Companies try to influence these decisions through legitimate lobbying and by arguing their case for government help. But some are also tempted by the huge sums involved to bribe and use other unlawful means to influence the outcomes.
The process of competing for government favours is called ‘rent-seeking’ in the literature on political economy. It has a long history and is inevitable whenever governments affect the destinies of companies. But rent-seeking has grown dramatically because public spending and regulations are now so extensive. Politicians and bureaucrats maybe no more mercenary than other groups, but they face unusually strong temptations to sell their power for money and other gains. Some businesses are willing to provide these temptations, perhaps justifying their behaviour with the excuse that others are also doing it.
Corruption distorts the functioning of an economy because it leads government officials to take actions that are not in the general interest. Corruption can even choke off economic development by discouraging honest entrepreneurs and by sharply and arbitrarily raising the cost of doing business.
Democracies generally have much less corruption than closed systems: Opposition parties have the incentive and ability to expose the misbehaviour of the ruling party.
Yet, the huge gains from rent-seeking guarantee that democracies also have disturbing levels of corrupt behaviour. Some democratic countries, including Japan and Italy, have seen widespread cases of public officials accepting money in exchange for favours to business friends. Although instituting large cuts in the scope of government is the only surefire way to reduce corruption, that is seldom mentioned … ”
(Gary Becker, The Economics of Life, pp. 203-204)