Social State Society

Corruption, deconstructed

In an interview before he left office, Dr. Manmohan Singh had hinted that high growth and high rates of corruption are positively correlated. T.N. Ninan later wrote that after illegal mining had been revealed by the truckload in Karnataka and Goa, iron ore production in the country dropped by 40 per cent in two years. “Contemporary evidence suggests that economic growth in India has begun to falter at the same time that corruption charges have mushroomed,” he wrote.

Why is corruption considered an offensive act? China, because it is so often compared with India, has been growing in spite of rampant corruption. China’s corruption is more of the profit-sharing method — corruption is connected to new value created where the officials simply took a share in the profits reaped from a project. Andrew Wedeman, in his book Double Paradox: Rapid Growth and Rising Corruption in China , argues that this method was also kept in check by frequent anti-corruption drives.

For any developing economy to achieve the status of a developed economy, all evidence suggests that corruption is a necessary evil. To imply that corruption can derail an economy or that it smacks of irresponsibility in a democracy is an enforcement of commercial middle-class values to a greater people.

Every developed country has at some point been corrupt at various levels. As society evolves, corruption moves to the highest levels, whereas petty graft becomes negligible. In the U.S., when there were limits on campaign funding and direct advocacy by corporations, a Supreme Court ruling struck it down in the name of free speech, freeing corporations and unions to spend money both on ‘electioneering communications’ and advocate for the election or defeat of candidates.

While a lot of emphasis is placed on electoral integrity in all democracies, to expect candidates and by extension, corporations to not indulge themselves in political corruption seems like a double-standard, and as an easy method to attain moral high-ground in a subject that employs public morality than private honesty.

In his paper for the North American Review titled Commercial Immorality and Political Corruption , as early as 1868, Edwin L. Godkin quoted Shakespeare in his argument against the ‘evilness’ of corruption. Polonius says to Laertes in Hamlet, “Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,” — an exhortation to his son to live as luxuriously as he can. “Not only is all the luxury which anybody can reach considered legitimate, but everyone has a secret belief that luxury is within his reach... The decline of virtues, considered simply as commercial instruments, and not as moral qualities, has a good foundation in reason,” wrote Godkin.

To place the onus on a government or a corporation for one’s own circumstances has for long been the byword of a salaried population, for it takes away individual responsibility, while providing for intellectual dishonesty. If anything, considering we claim to be the most intelligent life form on the planet, we should do better than that.

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Printable version | Sep 30, 2022 11:02:39 pm |