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Corruption, Game Theory, and Rational Irrationality

Fumiko Nagano's picture

If we had to name one reason why petty corruption is so difficult to tackle, it has to be that it makes sense for people to engage in it than not. Unlike measures such as smoking bans, seatbelt laws, and drinking and driving laws where there is a clear individual benefit to those who do the “right thing,” corruption bans are hard to enforce because there aren’t easily discernible individual benefits to those who obey them. Rather, in countries where corruption is systemic, people who do what is right and follow whatever anti-corruption law might be in place will find themselves losing out to those who don’t.

In fact, with corruption, individual opinion doesn’t seem to matter much in one’s decision whether to engage in it. In theory, most people believe that corruption is wrong. But in practice, the incentive that motivates an individual’s behavior in a corruption-prone situation is their perception of what everyone else would do in a similar situation. Would your pregnant colleague pay a bribe so that she could jump the queue and get an H1N1 vaccination when the vaccines are in limited supply? Would your neighbor, an entrepreneur, slip a few notes to a civil servant under the table to expedite the process of obtaining a business license? If the answer to each of these questions is a “yes,” then why should you bother going against the system alone? Why should you do the right thing and find yourself at a disadvantage to everyone else who will do what it takes to obtain what they need given the environment and culture in which they live?

Quote of the Week

Antonio Lambino's picture

"There are three complementary models of behavior change implicit in many public health communication campaigns.  The individual effects model focuses on individuals as they improve their knowledge and attitudes and assumes that individual exposure to messages affects individual behavior.  The social diffusion model focuses on the process of change among social groups.  The institutional diffusion model focuses on the change in elite opinion, which is translated into institutional behavior, including policy changes, which in turn affect individual behavior. The models contrast the direct effects of seeing mass media materials... with the indirect effects of the social diffusion model, (wherein) discussion within a social network is stimulated by PSAs (public service announcements) or media coverage of an issue; that discussion may produce changed social norms about appropriate behavior, and affect the likelihood that each member of the social network will adopt the new behavior.  In the institutional diffusion model, media coverage of an issue may operate through either one or both of two mechanisms.  Media coverage may affect public norms that affect institutional behavior or policymaker actions, or media coverage may lead policymakers to think an issue an issue is important and requires action, regardless of whether public norms have actually changed."

- Prof. Robert C. Hornik (2002, pp.14-15)
Public Health Communication: Evidence for Behavior Change

Transparency Delayed, Transparency Denied?

Antonio Lambino's picture

Is transparency delayed, transparency denied? How about when disasters, such typhoons or earthquakes, strike? Should transparency and citizen access to information as regards the disbursement of calamity funds be considered a priority? Or should transparency temporarily take a back seat during disasters with all efforts going into emergency response?

CommGAP at UNCAC Conference of State Parties, Doha

Fumiko Nagano's picture

Yesterday, CommGAP and UNODC co-hosted a side event during the Third Conference of the State Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption, taking place this week in Doha, Qatar. Entitled, “Media Relations and Good Practices in Awareness-Raising Campaigns,” the event consisted of two sessions, focusing on the importance of media relations for an anti-corruption agency to get its message across to the public and generate public support, and of awareness raising campaigns to engage the public in the fight against corruption.

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

November 9th is an ambiguous day for Germany. On November 9, 1938, the Nazis killed 400 Jews, arrested about 30,000 more, destroyed over 800 synagogues and thousands of homes and businesses in the Kristallnacht, a pogrom against German and Austrian Jews.

About half a century later, on November 9, 1989, Germans in East and West Berlin stormed the Berlin Wall, the symbol of the Cold War, and brought down the Iron Curtain, literally with their own hands. I lived in East Germany when people started going out into the streets, chanting "We are the people" and demanding more freedom from the communist government. In September 1989 the first so called Monday Demonstration brought people out onto the street in Leipzig, first to pray for peace, then to demand freedom. I remember the exhilarating feeling when those demonstrations spread through other cities and drew more and more people until hundreds of thousands of East Germans protested - peacefully, without violence - for their rights.

Putting the E in Parliaments

Paul Mitchell's picture

I recently spoke at the World e-Parliament 2009 Conference held in Washington at the US House of Representatives. The conference attracted representatives from all Parliaments and was attended by more than 300 Members of Parliament, Clerks or Secretary -Generals of Parliaments, their deputies and other people working on e-Parliaments. With a global centre in Rome partially funded by the UN Department of Social and Economic Affairs, the group tries to coordinate and develop ICT systems for Parliaments. They strongly believe that ICT can be a tool for greater transparency and accountability of Parliaments and a larger platform for public consultation and interaction with citizens. They are looking at ways to harness new technologies for this purpose. 

Quote of the Week

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

"Participation is, clearly, the proper avenue of approach to the study of public opinion, for, in various senses, public opinion is participating opinion. But the legitimation of participation rests on the older, broader, and more philosophical proposition that just governments are governments to which, in some sense, the subjects have given their consent. Like participation, consent is never perfect, and like it also there are variations in forms of consent. Since we can hardly say that nonexistent opinion can be public opinion, we can hardly say that a primitive and inarticulate acceptance of a governing order is really consent."

 

Francis Graham Wilson, 1962
A Theory of Public Opinion

Scaling Up Social Accountability

Darshana Patel's picture

Strengthening accountability relationships between policy makers, service providers and citizens is at the core of the public accountability effort. But because traditional, supply-side interventions alone have not been able to deliver expected development outcomes; governance practitioners, civil society and policy-makers are increasingly looking towards citizen-driven, social accountability processes to strengthen governance and service delivery. The two approaches must be integrally linked. If governance and accountability are central to the development agenda, social accountability interventions must be a part of this agenda as well. Most governance practitioners would agree on this point.

Isaiah Berlin on Political Judgement

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Technocracies love complexity, especially technical complexity. If you can't hurl regressions at a problem, well, that is not interesting. Yet at the heart of effective development specific contexts is an art. That art is political judgement, not partisan politics but sound judgement when it is the domestic political process that determines whether or not you succeed. 
 

The trouble is this: saying something is an art gets many technocrats nervous. Technocrats love numbers. But as reflective practitioners of the so-called social sciences have often pointed out, the reason you cannot claim that these are sciences is that the subjects being studied think. Human beings are not numbers; they are full of surprises. Which is why when it comes to how to achieve your objectives in Gugu Republic, you being the head of a development initiative being implemented in Gugu Republic, you will not be successful unless you can display sound political judgement. 

Therefore, Freedom is Evil

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

"Censorship is a lesser evil than excesses on the part of the press." What an interesting statement - who do you think made it and when?

Actually, it was a member of a Prussian Parliament in the 1840s, and he is cited by Karl Marx in a remarkable series of articles on press freedom.

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