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Dec 9 Anti Corruption Day

“Corrupt politicians make the other ten percent look bad.” ― Henry Kissinger

There are few things more corrosive to the trust of citizens, voters, and civilization itself than corruption.   

By Chuck Woolery, Activist, Non TV Host

The Corruption Perceptions Index
 is an index published annually by Transparency International.  It ranks countries “by their perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys.” The CPI generally defines corruption as “the misuse of public power for private benefit”.  But corruption also exists where ever you find people — who can be corrupted. 

And corruption ensures far more than corroded trust.   It drains enormous financial and environmental resources that are essential for ensuring human security, protecting human rights, and sustained prosperity for all.   Kleptocrats stealing from public coffers can be measured in hundreds of billions if not trillions of dollars.  And when essential human needs are not met, or reasonable expectations thwarted, people do desperate things.  (See Syria, Iraq, Venezuela, Central America, Haiti, South Sudan, 2016 US elections…).  Routinely, there is no political consensus on practical steps to address it on a global level.  Could it be because much of the ill-gotten gains are sitting in offshore accounts or invested in properties owned by anonymous owners? 

When governments fail, for any reason, to invest in basic human needs or human capital a society stops maturing and can easily backslide into political divisions, chaos and ultimately mass violence.  History is replete with this destructive scenario. And it continues to prove the maxim that the only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.
“We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.” ~Albert Einstein 

Politicians are addicted to money because it helps them get re-elected.Corporations are addicted to profit because it helps them get access to politicians, so their business can benefit and increase their profits.People are addicted to money to feed their children, cloth them, shelter them, and educate them in hopes they will eventually earn enough money to take care of themselves, their families, and their aging parents.When addiction to money (greed) gets more important than our addiction to liberty and justice for all, we might have an existential problem.

 “A man who has never gone to school may steal a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.”   ― Theodore Roosevelt

There is no doubt that corruption also hurts businesses.  In 2013, bribery, corruption and facilitation payments were the most commonly reported issues recorded by the Institute of Business Ethics’ media monitoring. They accounted for 13% of all the stories on business ethics. The sectors most frequently mentioned were extracted resources (70%), defense and security (63%), pharmaceuticals (47%) and broadcast/media (33%).  
In May 2016, UK Prime Minister David Cameron hosted an anti-corruption summit. Associated with it was an analysis of the relationship between corruption and per capita GDP, a rough living standard indicator.   Combined with a 2016 Global CEO Survey examining business leaders’ views on corruption across countries and sectors – it proved there should be a strong motivation to businesses for stamping out corruption. The analysis showed that a one notch-increase in perceived corruption levels is associated with a $380 decrease in per capita GDP.  Conversely, persistently lower levels of perceived corruption are associated with higher levels of per capita GDP.

While correlation may not imply causation (there could be other factors driving income levels) there are decent reasons to believe that reducing corruption should also boost overall economic prosperity within a country, and the world. 

Looking at China’s model of development, investment in human capital, and capitalism under government control, an exceptional increase in economic prosperity appears possible, even if not environmentally sustainable.  Just 35 years ago 3/4s of China’s population lived in extreme poverty by world standards. Today it’s down to 1 percent.
China’s investment of trillions of dollars on its global ‘One belt, One road’ policy while minimizing in state corruption, may be a wise investment.  For now, loan recipient nations and their people appear to be more favorable to China’s long term economic and national security goals. And less favorable of ours.
US leadership in funding the 17 global Sustainable Development Goals could be a way to short circuit China’s global economic outreach and dampen its environmental shortcomings at the same time.  Unfortunately our leader is taking the US in the opposite direction.
Amazingly, there is an abundance of economic resources that could be used for this wise investment.  And it not need come out of US taxpayers’ pockets.  It could be funded by the money stashed by corrupt foreign leaders who skimmed billions from aid money originally targeted for improving the lives of their own people.  And the super-rich capitalists, business owners, and crime cartels that use the same offshore accounts to stash their ill-gotten assets. 

In a January 2017 Washington Post article “Five myths about Kleptocracy”,By Natalie Duffy and Nate Sibley (both researchers at Hudson Institute’s Kleptocracy Initiative) highlighted a 2012 report estimating there was at least $32 trillion available in private offshore accounts from these sources


Another article ( February 2017) by Martin Kenney “Put our own Tax Havens in Order, America”  stated that  “The U.S. holds 20 percent of the global market for financial services for non-residents with foreign assets of $16.75 trillion (2013), and foreign direct investment of $3 trillion (2014).
Freezing and seizing some or most of these ill-gotten gains could fund the 17 SDGs and put humanity on a path of increased security, human freedom and sustainable prosperity – for generations to come.
An arguably bias view of corruption from the top within the US government go to:

We will not be able to make America great, secure, free or prosperous without first ending the worst aspects of corruption as well as the worst aspects of global poverty, injustices, and environmental destruction.

The US government won’t do this unless ‘we the people’ demand it.   If we don’t do it soon, we may not be able to do it at all.  Some things that are broken, don’t get fixed. George H.W. Bush’s recent funeral brought back memories of the collapse of the Soviet Union.  He was praised today in the Washington Post for a speech he never gave.  When the Berlin Wall fell he never touted that ‘we won’ the Cold war as many had expected. It’s rumored he didn’t want to instigate an overreaction to such a taunt.   Back then there were a few others who believed the USSR was only the first superpower to fall.   Today it appears they had some reasons for their assertion.

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