Classes in public management routinely include lectures on the importance of transparency; after all, democratic processes depend upon the participation of informed voters, and–as yesterday’s post noted– being informed requires knowledge of what government is doing.
From that perspective, I suppose we might applaud news of the most recent survey from Transparency International.
Transparency International publishes an annual Corruption Index that ranks the world’s governments on their honesty. The United States didn’t do so well.
The U.S. has plummetedin an annual corruption index, falling out of the top 20 countries for the first time since 2011, watchdog Transparency International said in a new report that links the global erosion of democracy and tidal wave of autocrats to an uptick in graft.
“Corruption chips away at democracy to produce a vicious cycle, where corruption undermines democratic institutions and, in turn, weak institutions are less able to control corruption,” said Patricia Moreira, managing director of Transparency International (TI).
The Corruption Perceptions Index, which ranks 180 countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, found overall that the failure to control corruption is contributing to a “crisis of democracy around the world.”
It will probably not shock you to learn that the U.S. slipped four points since the election of Donald Trump. That’s the lowest score we have registered in seven years.
The low score comes at a time when the U.S. is experiencing threats to its system of checks and balances as well as an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power,” according to TI.
President Donald Trump is a “symptom, not a cause,” Zoe Reiter, the watchdog’s acting representative to the U.S., told Reuters
“Conflict of interest wasn’t a new problem, but it was illuminated in its glory when you have someone who is basically breaking norms,” she said.
According to the Index, the least corrupt countries were Denmark and New Zealand; Western Europe and the European Union scored the highest by region.
The most obvious question raised by America’s declining honesty is: what are we going to do about it? The most obvious answer is: we’re going to begin by getting rid of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell. As salutary as that would be–as much of an improvement their exit from public life would represent–that should only be a start. As Zoe Reiter has pointed out, they are symptoms.
There’s a reason we have rarely heard pundits and public figures use terms like “public servant” and “statesman” over the past couple of decades. The political figures worthy of those labels–in Indiana, the Richard Lugars and the Lee Hamiltons–have been replaced by ambitious empty suits who lack both gravitas and integrity (and frequently, intelligence) and who are unwilling to do the hard work needed to master policy areas.
Empty suits are much easier to corrupt. Hence America’s declining place on the Corruption Index.
The problem is, when politics becomes a dirty word, it’s much harder to recruit bright, idealistic young people to run for office.
We can only hope that the number of newcomers who ran and won in 2018 are a sign of renewed political interest among young citizens intent upon cleaning up what has become America’s disgraceful political sewer.