Thursday, December 27, 2012

Chicago, Most Corrupt City In The Nation

According to a recent study published by the University of Illinois, Chicago is the most corrupt city in the nation. Between 1976 and 2010, there were 1,531 convictions for public corruption in the federal district dominated by Chicago. Illinois is considered the 3rd most corrupt state, which is a bit surprising considering that 4 of the last 7 governors have been jailed for corruption.

Addressing this will be very difficult, primarily for cultural reasons. In country-by-country surveys, we find that culture, rather than the system of governance, is a greater determinant of the level of political venality. For example, in the Arab-Islamic world, over the last 50 years there has existed a remarkable degree of political diversity. From conservative royal, to secular nationalist, Marxist and Islamic regimes, corruption has been endemic. And this is not a question of laws, because in most states, strong anti-corruption policies exist on the books, but in practice they have virtually no impact. Conversely, the index of corruption has been extremely low in Scandinavian Countries, because of its strong civic, ethical culture. While I am not placing  Chicago on the same dismal footing as Cairo or Gaza, the corporatist ethos of the Chicago Machine that makes public graft possible, is deeply entrenched in the city's culture.

As a conservative, I am always tempted to say that Chicago's corruption is a product of its expansive government, but as previously mentioned, the least corrupt nations are found in Scandinavia, which are heavily statist in nature. But, we can say that cities that do not enjoy a strong track record for clean government, should seek to minimize the size and scope of the state, so that they can limit the potential for graft and economic mismanagement. And while there are many examples of multiparty systems wracked with corruption, the chance of fostering good government in a single party state is always less. In other words, greater competition both between and within political parties would be in the interest of the city. But, with the recent victory of State Representative Derrick Smith (D-Chicago), an individual who was expelled from the Illinois House of Representatives on charges of having accepted bribes, over an independent candidate with a clean record, the public's appetite for change seems minimal.

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