Acton Institute Powerblog

‘Act Against Corruption’

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Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles to wealth creation in the developing world is corruption. Bribery, rigging of the political process, theft, lack of accountability: all of these lead to instability, bureaucracy, and a lack of incentive to invest. The United Nations has declared today International Anti-Corruption Day in an effort to bring light to this topic and work to prevent it.

George Ayittey, Ghanaian economist, explains how massive a problem corruption is for Africa:

Imagine, Africa has a begging bowl and that into this begging bowl comes… foreign aid. But this bowl has holes in it, so it leaks. There’s a massive hole here through which corruption alone cost Africa $148 billion dollars. That’s a massive leak. What should be done first – plugging the leaks or putting more aid money in? Now this is something which even an elementary school student should be able to answer. I mean, you pouring more and more and more into the bowl and then it leaks. Defining insanity: as doing the same thing over and over and over and again and expecting different results—makes no sense.

Osvaldo Schenone and Samuel Gregg share their thoughts on corruption and its scourge in the Acton Institute monograph A Theory of Corruption. The monograph explores the political and international ramifications of corruption, but also its moral implications.

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary of General of the United Nations, says that while “corruption is not inevitable”, it still remains a frustration:

The cost of corruption is measured not just in the billions of dollars of squandered or stolen government resources, but most poignantly in the absence of the hospitals, schools, clean water, roads and bridges that might have been built with that money and would have certainly changed the fortunes of families and communities.

Corruption destroys opportunities and creates rampant inequalities.  It undermines human rights and good governance, stifles economic growth and distorts markets.

Corruption also aggravates environmental problems, through the illegal dumping of hazardous waste and the illegal trade in animal and plant life facilitated by bribery and under-the-table incentives that determine who is awarded contracts, especially for highly lucrative, large-scale infrastructure projects.

Read more about the UN’s Anti-Corruption Day work here.

Purchase the monograph, A Theory of Corruption, at the Acton Book Shop.

Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.


  • What about the corruption here in the United States government…in particular, it’s Federal Courts! We are hearing everyday about someone whohas spent half a lifetime behind bars on wrongful convictions, but those who put them there are NEVER held accountable. The corruption in this country, that is so lovingly referred to as a ‘Democratic society’ is always turning it’s ‘unjust’ nose up at other countries and how they treat their people, but never take a look in it’s own backyard. The media reports on how our young people are falling victim to illegal guns and drugs at an alarming rate. I think our young…and old people are falling victim to government corruption, such as wrongful convictions and overcriminalization at a rate far, far grater than anything illegal guns and drugs could possibly do. These judges who have been given lifetime appointments and think they have God’s people’s lives in their hands have never stop and considered whose hand their lives are in. They don’t even care about how many lives they ruin as a result of these wrongful convictions. They have more power than the President of the United States who is supposedly the most powerful man in the ‘free’ world. How is that possible?