March 23, 2009

Guest blog: Thoughts on corruption

"Celebrate it, boys!"
(Happy Fight Against Corruption day!)
Cartoon: Dario Banegas, La Prensa, Honduras

The following guest blog article is by Keith, who wrote this "mainly just to capture the thoughts that I was having on the plane on the way back (last weekend from Honduras)". Keith spends much of his time in Central and South America.


Corruption perpetuates many evils, but none more powerful than this: That it destroys the vital link between industry and advancement. Who will work hard, or provide good service, or forgo immediate pleasures in order to grow their business, when they know that it may all be taken from them through a little bribery or superior family connections? One clear set of laws, applied honestly and impartially to all of the people is not merely the fairest system; it is the most productive. It is the one that can actually be seen to work.

From the traffic cop who takes a little bribe, all the way up to the President who advances legislative changes to benefit his campaign contributors, all obtain an immediate and personal advantage, but to the detriment of their whole society and so, ultimately, themselves. Each obtains, momentarily, a bigger slice of the pie, but – through destruction of the vital link noted above – at a collective cost of shrinking the whole pie. From the simplest comparison between relatively straight and honest societies and those with higher corruption it can be seen that any society that is serious about its overall advancement – in freedom, wealth, technological prowess, opportunity, and the respect of its own people and outsiders – will tackle corruption before anything else. Before social welfare; before improved education; before healthcare; before crime-fighting. None of these desirable goals has any real chance while the corruption index remains high. They will all be about as useful as bandages over an abscess.

Corruption’s greatest friends are apathy and fatalism. The bowed head and the shrugged shoulder. The brief mechanical little smile of helpless resignation. The very thing that the reader is probably feeling in reference to the thoughts expressed here. But things will change, in a democracy, exactly as soon as an effective majority of the people both want them to change and believe that they can change. Corruption has no immunity.

I offer these thoughts to the Honduran people and to Pepe Lobo during their run-up to the November elections. As a gringo who is about to move to Honduras I have good selfish reasons for wishing you all success and trying to help you achieve it. Your country is very beautiful, and has many natural advantages through which it could outstrip both Costa Rica and Panama to lead Central America as the world begins to emerge from its present slump. Would this not, for all of us, be worth the effort?


My thanks go to Keith for allowing me to reprint his article. Keith and I would both love to hear your thoughts and comments.
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