Corruption

Most political commentary examines different governments along a conservative-liberal spectrum.  However, as a practical matter it is the level of corruption in any government, left or right, that has the biggest effect on the lives of its subjects.

Why are some countries (and even continents) so pervasively poor?  The level of corruption is perhaps the largest single determiner.  Here’s a world map from Transparency International of the levels of corruption.And here’s a world map from the IMF of per capita GDP.

Loosely speaking, corruption occurs whenever the powers-that-be serve their own (or their friends’) interests at the expense of the general public.  Almost always they’re after the usual: money, power, sex, respect.  There’s a reason investigators “follow the money”.  One could argue that some level of corruption is unavoidable, even desirable – after all, it can be used to build a support structure that may be needed to effectively rule.  The problem with this argument, of course, it that it is almost impossible to limit corruption once it gets embedded.

Probably the best antidote for corruption is an open and free press, which is why almost all corrupt governments try so hard to shut the free press down.  Below is a map from Reporters Without Borders – the similarities among these 3 maps are striking.

The levels of corruption in the current Trump administration far exceed any that we in the U.S. have ever experienced, starting with his refusal to release his tax returns and continuing with the appointments of his family to important government positions.  And the congress is silent.