Friday, January 25, 2008

Bad to the Bone?

Common Dreams reports on an interesting study about political corruption by state in the U.S.. The study used public corruption convictions from federal suits as the measure of corruption by state.

This could be a problem, because not all corruption cases are taken to federal courts and not all states have enough funds to prosecute corruption. Some states might also be more accepting of corruption as the usual way of doing political business. But on the whole the measure probably reflects the general level of political corruption.

So which states are the most corrupt, at least in this study? The answer:

Louisiana (1), Mississippi (2), Kentucky (3), Alabama (4) and Ohio (5) are the top five most corrupt states in the country, according to the analysis.

Rounding out the top ten are Illinois (6), Pennsylvania (7), Florida (8), New Jersey (9), and New York (10).

What's so bad about corruption, anyway, a cynic believer in free political markets might ask. A little money slipped to a customs official in some foreign country might get those clunky bureaucratic wheels moving again, and at home a nice check might get you the building permit you really desire but which the zoning laws won't allow.

But corruption also distorts democracy. It gives those with more money more power in the government, too. And the kind of corruption where government contracts, say, are awarded to the firm which pays the most to some civil servant drain the money taxpayers have paid into private pockets.

None of this is efficient and all of this is unethical.