Friday, December 16, 2005

The March Of Corruption

Low corruption in a nation is crucial to its wealth and freedom. But states must work to stay honest - kids need educating, leaders must set examples, and law breakers prosecuted. Right now, many Germans think their society is becoming more corrupt, and Schroder provides a good (bad) example.

Transparency International reports each year on how outsiders see the corruption of each nation. They just published
a report on how people they see their own nations. Nothing very surprising - just a slight tendency to underrate the corruption seen by outsiders - people get used to dishonesty.

The perceived trends are interesting:
In the United States and in Germany, 65 and 66 percent
respectively of those surveyed believe corruption has worsened in the past three
years, and 56 and 57 percent respectively expect this to continue.

I suspect the US trend is caused by the mess of corruption in Louisiana exposed by Katrina. But the situation in Germany is more serious, here's Schroder just 3 months after ceasing to be Chancellor:
State-owned Russian gas firm Gazprom announced last Friday that Mr. Schroeder will become supervisory board chairman of the North European Gas Pipeline Co., a joint venture between Gazprom and German firms E.ON and BASF to build a pipeline through the Baltic Sea and pump Siberian gas to Germany.

Analysts and politicians from all parties, including Mr. Schroeder's Social Democrats, balked at the notion of a German leader taking Russian paychecks and said the move smacked of favoritism, given Mr. Schroeder's close friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Schroeder and Mr. Putin were instrumental in arranging the joint venture, announced two weeks before Germany's September election.

The affair also revived criticism that Mr. Schroeder's ties with Mr. Putin led him to overlook abuses of democracy and human rights in Russia.

Germany is still a high-trust, low corruption society, hence the criticism. But Schroder clearly thinks he can get away with it, and if he does, Germany will go further down the slippery slope.

This is not Schadenfreude - Tony Blair has had a succession of rogues in his government.

UPDATE: This full post replaces the partial version accidentally published earlier, apologies to XML feeders.