In This Review

The Best System Money Can Buy: Corruption in the European Union
The Best System Money Can Buy: Corruption in the European Union
By Carolyn M. Warner
Cornell University Press, 2007, 272 pp

Do free markets, privatization, and open competition help limit corruption, as their advocates often argue? Or do they actually create new opportunities for graft and abuse? The political scientist Warner deserves credit for tackling these issues, but her study begs more questions than it answers. Warner looks at economic liberalization in the European Union over the past 20 years and suggests that the process not only has failed to root out corruption but has actually generated it as well. The book is full of detailed evidence of how European business and political leaders have continued to line their pockets even as the EU single market has progressed. The question, however, is, compared with what? Are EU member states more or less corrupt than before they began to liberalize? How do their levels of corruption compare with those of other advanced industrial countries? How do they compare with those of less integrated or less economically liberal states? (Rather well, actually, according to Transparency International.) These issues are inherently difficult to research, but Warner's sweeping implication (that the EU integration process has made the member states more corrupt) is far stronger than her actual conclusion (that the free market "may not be sufficient to root out corruption").