Worth Reading (Sept. 17, 2014): APSA Panel on Anti-Corruption Research

This issue of Worth Reading features four academic articles on combating corruption that were presented at a panel at the 2014 meeting of the American Political Science Association in Washington, DC. 

“Of Virtuous Cycles: Modeling Control of Corruption Beyond Modernization” by Alina Mingiu-Pippidi

In “Of Virtuous Cycles: Modeling Control of Corruption Beyond Modernization,” International Forum Research Council Member Alina Mungiu-Pippidi advocates for a holistic model to explain how contemporary “high achievers” in anti-corruption successfully implemented reform. After briefly reviewing the literature on anti-corruption, Mungiu-Pippidi concludes that modernization increases opportunities for corruption, as well as corruption’s potential spoils. A holistic model, she writes, must take into account these factors as well as constraints upon them (including a free press, an independent judiciary, societal norms, and a robust civil society). Using this model to analyze the political economy of seven “high-achieving” countries (Botswana, Chile, Estonia, Georgia, South Korea, Taiwan, and Uruguay), Mungiu-Pippidi finds great variation in how constraints eventually came to outweigh opportunities–but notes that in all cases, a great shift in the equilibrium between these factors was required.

“Corruption and Governance Improvement in Uruguay” by Daniel Buquet and Rafael Piñeiro

In “Corruption and Governance Improvement in Uruguay,” Daniel Buquet and Rafael Piñeiro explain how fifteen years of progress in Uruguay have made that country an anti-corruption leader in the region. While Uruguay has typically performed very well on anti-corruption indices, its political parties were organized through political particularism for much of the country’s history. Uruguay’s import-substitution economy began to stagnate in the 1950’s, eventually culminating in a military coup in 1973. When the country reverted to civilian rule in 1985, Uruguay’s “traditional political parties” were united behind pro-market reforms but were forced to compete with a leftist alternative known as the Frente Amplio. The ideological competition between these two groups eventually replaced particularism as the organizing principle for Uruguayan politics, culminating in the passage of several anti-corruption and political-party finance reform laws. The authors maintain that these reforms solidified, rather than caused, Uruguay’s transition to an open access regime.

“Costa Rica’s Anti-Corruption Trajectory: Strengths and Limitations” by Bruce M. Wilson

In “Costa Rica’s Anti-Corruption Trajectory: Strengths and Limitations,” Bruce M. Wilson explores the sharp rise in Costa Rican citizens’ perception of corruption. Wilson suggests that several high-profile accusations of corruption in the Costa Rican media have highlighted practices of behind-the-scenes influence-trading that have always existed in Costa Rica. While systemic corruption problems exist in Costa Rica, especially in campaign finance, Wilson emphasizes the general strength of the country’s anti-corruption instruments (including its investigative press). However, he also notes that Central American drug cartels operating within Costa Rica are overwhelming the country’s under-trained and under-equipped police force and pose a serious threat to its progress.

“Transition from a Limited Access Order to an Open Access Order: The Case of South Korea” by Jong-Sung You

Finally, in “Transition from a Limited Access Order to an Open Access Order: The Case of South Korea,” Jong-Sung You offers a new take on South Korea’s transition from a limited access order to an open access order. You begins his analysis with the 1950’s land reform effort under the Syngman Rhee regime, which was overthrown by Park Chung-hee in 1960. Most analyses consider the Rhee regime “predatory” and credit the Park regime with implementing South Korea’s developmental state. You, however, credits the Rhee regime with a land reform package that created a relatively equal society, led to a state monopoly on violence, encouraged an educated citizenry, and ensured no entrenched economic elite could challenge state authority. These accomplishments set the stage for Park’s authoritarianism but also for the use of import-substitution as a path to export-led growth. Because the export economy forced the South Korean government to reward export performance rather than mere political patronage, the state was unable to regulate the private sector and protect South Korea from the 1997 Asian financial crisis. It was this event that led South Korea to complete its gradual transition to an open access order, supporting what You calls the theory of “double balance”–the idea that open access economies do not function well under authoritarian regimes, and that democratic regimes do not function well in limited access economies.

About Worth Reading

Worth Reading is a list of featured readings on democracy disseminated semi-monthly by the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy. Many thanks to the Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, Daniel Buquet, Rafael Piñeiro, Bruce M. Wilson, and Jong-Sung You for their insight and analysis; thanks also to the American Political Science Association for hosting the panel at which these papers were presented. If you have materials you would like featured in Worth Reading, please send us an email.