VOL. 2, NO. 3, PGS. 1–6


Public Corruption
A conversation with Susan Rose-Ackerman

This interview was conducted by Javier Toro.

Susan Rose-Ackerman is Henry R. Luce Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University. She is the lead author of the latest edition of Corruption and Government: Causes, Consequences and Reform.

What is corruption? Is it equally perceived everywhere?

Under my definition, corruption occurs when an official charged with a public responsibility operates in his or her own interest in a way that undermines the program’s aims, whatever they may be. Officials who administer public programs without gaining personal benefits are not corrupt, in my view, even if the programs’ values are abhorrent and immoral. Corruption can also involve two private entities as when a firm’s sales representative bribes a purchasing agent to select that firm’s product. However, in this interview I concentrate on public corruption.

Sometimes a gift in one society is a bribe in another. Those lines are drawn differently in different societies, but the test should be whether those who give and receive gifts are content to make them public so all citizens can see what is happening. If not, the mutual satisfaction of payers and payees is not evidence of their acceptability.

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