In This Review

Syndromes of Corruption: Wealth, Power, and Democracy
Syndromes of Corruption: Wealth, Power, and Democracy
By Michael Johnston
282 pp, Cambridge University Press, 2006

Corruption is increasingly regarded as a major impediment to economic development and even to democratization. But corruption comes in many varieties, and without distinguishing among them, any discussion of corruption is often too broad to be helpful. In this useful analysis, Johnston identifies, on the basis of empirical analysis, four clusters or syndromes of deeply rooted corruption, statistically classifying many countries and describing in some detail how each type of corruption operates in three representative countries. In the case of elite cartels (as found in Botswana, Italy, and Korea), a small group of sometimes competing, sometimes cooperating families controls both national politics and national business, and the two are not always carefully distinguished. In the case of oligarchs and clans (as in Mexico, the Philippines, and Russia), rival groups compete for government favors in an institutionally weak state. In the case of official moguls (as in China, Indonesia, and Kenya), political leaders can act with impunity and without accountability, devoting as much time to enriching their supporters as to governing. In the case of influence markets (as in Germany, Japan, and the United States), institutions and legal systems are relatively strong, but politicians are often for rent, weakening public confidence in and respect for democratic processes. A common element across all these syndromes is that special interests are enriched at public expense, sometimes by staying within the formal legal and institutional framework, sometimes by circumventing it.