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This chapter integrates the various discussions around public ownership previously presented in the book into a sectoral analysis of the United States economy. Alongside the overview of public ownership in the United States, it represents the book’s most important and original contribution to the field. This chapter draws on real world experience, theoretical and empirical studies, and alternative systemic design to develop a framework in which public ownership is expanded and scaled up from existing levels across a wide variety of economic sectors. The sectors analyzed include: utilities; finance; healthcare; pharmaceuticals & chemicals; transportation; energy; defense; telecommunications & information; manufacturing; agriculture; and retail.

in Our common wealth

This chapter reviews many of the reasons articulated in favour of public ownership in both theory and practice. It starts by discussing economic rationales like natural monopoly, market failure, revenue generation, and technology transfer, before going on to discuss broader political-economic concerns. The latter includes the role public ownership can play in reducing inequality (with regards to both race and income and wealth); bolstering democracy (both in terms of reducing the domination of corporate and elite interests and asserting democratic control over economic decision-making at all levels); addressing ecological issues (especially climate change and growth); managing automation and technological change; and ensuring transparency and the widespread distribution of information (itself a pre-requisite for genuine democratic participation).

in Our common wealth
Abstract only
Prevention and control

The chapter takes its point of departure from the fact that scandals of the kind considered in the previous chapter are important in driving efforts to tackle problems like corruption because they create the public pressure needed to ensure they are taken seriously. Against this background the chapter considers, first, the conditions under which measures to tackle corruption are likely to be more or less successful, bearing in mind that any given measure may work well in some contexts, less so in others. Then it asks about the conditions under which the authorities’ efforts to tackle corruption will be greater or lesser – bearing in mind that in order for the authorities to make any attempt to combat corruption, they have to be aware of it; they have to want to combat it, and they have to have adequate means to do so. Finally, in light of the factors influencing the efforts the authorities are likely to make in tackling corruption, the chapter considers what they are actually doing.

in Corruption in contemporary politics

The chapter explores how corruption can be explained or accounted for. It argues that there are two very broad questions facing scholars who have sought to explain corruption: 1) Under what conditions will individuals become caught up in it either as corruptors or the corrupted? 2) What explains why levels of corruption appear to be higher in some contexts than in others? The two questions, though related, are different. Thus, one of the suggestions one might make to explain why corruption seems more widespread among Nigerian than among UK civil servants, say, is that the former are paid much less than the latter. But though lower salaries might throw light on why there is more corruption among Nigerian than among British civil servants generally, it will not help us to understand why some Nigerian civil servants, assuming their salaries are uniformly low, behave corruptly while others remain honest. The chapter is therefore divided into two sections corresponding to the questions identified above followed by a section drawing some conclusions for the issue to be considered in the following chapter: the mechanisms and dynamics of corruption.

in Corruption in contemporary politics

This book provides an accessible account of current thinking about political corruption, recognising that the phenomenon is a serious problem: since it infringes rules defining legitimate and illegitimate means of the acquisition of wealth and the exercise of power, corruption damages the interests of the advantaged and disadvantaged alike. The advantaged find that wealth cannot be pursued and maintained safely, the disadvantaged that development is thwarted and resources redistributed from the poor to the rich. Against this background, the book takes the reader on a journey – a journey that begins with what corruption is, why its study might be important and how it can be measured. From there it moves on to explore corruption’s causes, its consequences and how it can be tackled – before finally discovering how these things are playing out in the established liberal democracies, in the former communist regimes and in what used to be commonly referred to as ‘the third world’. On the way it takes a couple of detours – first, to ascertain how the minimum of trust necessary for the corrupt transaction to take place at all is established and underwritten, and second to survey the phenomenon of scandal – to which corruption may give rise. The book is therefore offered as an informative ‘travel guide’ of potential interest to journalists and policy makers as well as to students and academics researching matters on which political corruption has a bearing.

A case study of Italy

The chapter takes its point of departure from the discussion, in earlier chapters, of the different types of corruption there may be; the possible causes of corruption and the mechanisms by which it can spread; the relationship between corruption and organised crime; the exposure of corruption and the effects of such exposure, and how governments and other political authorities can and do attempt to prevent and control corruption. Chapter 8 therefore explores how these kinds of issues manifest themselves in the Italian case with the aim of drawing some conclusions concerning corruption in liberal democracies generally. Italy, is used in other words, as the basis for a case study, that is the study of an entity not for its own sake, but because it is taken to be an example of a larger category: liberal democracies in the present case. In these regimes, the institutions most prone to corruption are those – like the parties, the legislature and the media – that act as channels of communication, linking civil society and the state. State agencies themselves – the military, schools, the judiciary, the police – are all relatively clean, being much more corrupt in the non-democracies.

in Corruption in contemporary politics

Low and declining levels of trust in politicians, prompted in part by perceptions that they are too often to be found engaged in corruption and other forms of wrong-doing has in recent years turned corruption itself into a high-profile political issue. Against this background, the chapter considers what political corruption is, or might be, for the study of anything requires having a clear understanding of its nature. Then it discusses the different types of corruption to be found, and finally it says something about why their study might be important. The chapter argues that, understood as the adulteration of public by private interests, corruption is a relatively modern notion; suggests that it is possible to distinguish between four types of corruption understood in principal-agent terms, and makes the case that corruption is, as an object of study, important for its incidence and its effects.

in Corruption in contemporary politics

The chapter explores the growing levels of academic concern with political corruption as an object of investigation since the early 1990s and at the problems involved in its measurement. It thus discusses why the topic was relatively neglected before the 1990s and why there has been growing interest in the phenomenon since then. It then considers the various difficulties involved in quantifying it. The issue is important since providing solutions to problems presupposes being able to analyse them, and analysis presupposes measurement. The two issues – measurement and the attention to corruption – are very much linked since one of the reasons for the relative neglect of the phenomenon until recent years has been precisely the difficulties involved in measuring it.

in Corruption in contemporary politics

This chapter considers the conditions that have to be met in order for corrupt transactions to be possible at all. It argues that a lack of trust undermines prospects for the successful conclusion of corrupt transactions: because each party knows that the other cannot denounce cheating to the authorities without incriminating himself, each is fearful of being cheated by the other and is therefore incentivised to hold back from making a corrupt agreement in the first place. And yet corrupt agreements are made and corrupt transactions are successfully carried out. This is because of the mechanisms and dynamics involved – which have the effect, precisely, of helping the parties to overcome the trust problem. The 'mechanisms' are the resources, social and personal, psychological and material, the parties bring to the transaction, the 'dynamics' the patterns of action and interaction, through which the transactions take place. Showing how mechanisms and dynamics enable the overcoming of each of the problems that each of the parties face at each stage of the corrupt transaction makes it possible to understand how corruption itself ‘works’ in practice.

in Corruption in contemporary politics

This chapter takes its point of departure from the fact that corruption typically involves the interaction of a wide range of actors – including mediators and third-party enforcers specialised in the job of ensuring a sufficient degree of trust between the counterparts to enable transactions to be concluded successfully. It is on these third-party enforcers – referred to as ‘mafias’ – that the chapter focusses, as they offer the threat of violence to ensure that, once the parties to a corrupt exchange have agreed to do business, the terms are actually respected. To that extent, they offer something analogous to the insurance policies available, in the world of legal contracts, to protect firms and individuals against non-compliance or the consequences of non-compliance. They might also be regarded as analogous to legal debt collection agencies or private security firms, the difference being that once their services have been engaged, they cannot easily be dismissed. The chapter begins by looking at the characteristics of mafias, before considering the conditions under which they succeed in establishing themselves as powerful entities able to offer the protection and contract enforcement that are their distinguishing features. It then considers the relationship between mafias and corruption in some detail.

in Corruption in contemporary politics