No country is immune from patronage systems and the related
endemic corruption. In the United States, the term "Tammany Hall" brings to
mind governmental benevolence dispensed on an uneven playing field in exchange
for money or favors. Even today, there are large municipalities run by machines
that pervert the rule of law on behalf of those who control government jobs,
contracts, and purse strings.
Imagine a country where patronage like this dominates at the
national level. India comes to mind as a real world example. The pervasiveness
is such that many Indian youth now view the corrupt as role models instead of a
problem to be addressed.
To be sure, there is popular support for an anti-corruption
movement. Millions have rallied behind activist Kisan Bapat Baburao
"Anna" Hazare after his threat to fast until death last year in order
to move politicians to take action. In poor health, and the subject of death
threats, one wonders if Mr. Hazare will live to see real reforms enacted.
The government's attempt to placate reform demands would be
comical if the consequences were not so detrimental to India's citizens. After
performing a legislative Kabuki dance, actual reform, in the form of an
independent anti-corruption ombudsman, was rejected. An anti-corruption agency
that exists at the whim of those whom it is supposed to investigate is
ineffective except as a public relations front to cover up ongoing graft. Two obvious public manifestations of this
corruption which the press tiptoes around are the delays and last-minute and
shoddy construction of facilities like those for last year's Commonwealth Games
and this year's Cricket World Cup.
As India demands a larger role within the community of
nations as a growing economic power, it is time for the nation to engage in
internal housecleaning by enacting and enforcing legislation consistent with
Convention Against Corruption (pdf file). A good place to start would be
the creation of an anti-corruption ombudsman with real authority to investigate
and act without fear of retaliation by those whose misconduct may be revealed
in the process. The rule of law cannot protect fundamental human rights if it
is corrupted by a political spoils system.
are becoming role-models for youth in India: Murthy, Times of India (Jan.
Corruption Conundrum Continues, Eurasia Review (Jan. 25, 2012)
debate divides India, Al Jazeera (Jan. 23, 2012)
defends World Cup stadium preparations, ESPN CRIC Info (Jan. 15, 2012)