Does local culture influence corruption?

Corruption appears in various forms, on different levels and everywhere around the world. Corruption has a negative impact on the economic growth, investment, provision of public services and equality. The World Bank describes corruption as “an abuse of public office for private gain” and as the greatest obstacle to economic and social development (World Bank report 1997). However, corruption occurs more often in poorer countries and in economies in transition than in richer countries (Vito Tanzi 1995). The World Bank estimated the extent of bribery from the private to the public sector up to $1000 billion. The costs and other negative impacts are in particular inefficient allocation of resources. A lot of political leaders and governments all around the world have been fallen or replaced as a result of corruption.

A worldwide survey by the Gallup International Association, to find out what is the most important problem that the world is facing today, lead to the result that the majority identified corruption as the most important problem. Corruption got the highest response rate among the 17 categories (Gallup International Association 2013).

For corruption the long-term matters and culture changes very slowly over time. So, it might be, that corruption is closely related to culture and to people’s beliefs and values. Corruption is associated with something morally wrong, but for example during the second world war German businessman hid Jews in factories and bribed Nazi authorities to look the other way. This type of bribe and corruption is accepted or even encouraged by the society. What is considered morally correct can vary across countries. The Western way of thinking about corruption is rooted in the Western concept of nation states and the rule of law. That is the base of a democratic regime. In many other countries the government and the rule of law did not have the chance to develop as they did in the Western World. For people who lived under the rule of a feudal lord corruption is more the normal state of affairs. (Gerard 2014)

Research shows that on a macro‐ level there are three general factors that can be associated with the level of corruption namely (Tabellini, 2007):

  • Cultural
  • Economical
  • Institutional

In many African and Central Asian countries clan loyalties are more important than social norms and the law. For example, if someone gets a job in the government, it is his duty to acquire jobs for clan members as well (Gerard 2014). This is also a form of corruption and shows that these habits raise the level of corruption.

To investigate this relationship empirically culture has to be measured. Without any useful data on cultural characteristics it is almost impossible to analyze the impact of cultural factors. Therefor Geert Hofstede published the cultural dimensions. Hofstede named these dimensions individualism vs. collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, power distance and masculinity vs. femininity, long-term orientation and indulgence vs. self-restraint. To examine the factors, describing a culture Hofstede, analyzed the results of a world-wide survey of IBM employees during the 1960s and 1970s.

In my essay I will discuss the relationship between corruption and culture. I will also present empirical results.

References:

Roland, Gerard (2014), Development Economics, Chapter 19, London & New York

Tanzi, V. (1998). Corruption Around the World: Causes, Consequences, Scope, and Cures. International Monetary Fund.

G Tabellini (2008) Institutions and culture Journal of the European Economic Association 6 (2-3), 255-294

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