By Alejandro A. Tagliavini *
Anger only makes things worse. It is hard for us to “cool our heads” and act wisely, so things con get worse. Corruption, older than prostitution, has had two prominent news stories at the extremes of Americas and the reactions are counterproductive so that we will have corruption for a long time, unfortunately.
Trump came to the White House with slogans such as “drain the swamp,” that is, clean Washington of corruption. But now his former campaign manager has been found guilty of eight crimes of fiscal and banking fraud, due to events prior to that campaign. At the same time, the president’s personal lawyer turned himself in to the FBI, pleading guilty to eight charges and pointing to Trump as instigator of two of them, regarding illegal electoral financing.
But the most scandalous news comes from Argentina. The public -state- work has always been the occasion of corruption in practically all countries. But a scandal that surpasses fiction exploded from an investigation into a scheme of payments of bribes, during the previous government of the Kirchners, which were recorded in notes of the driver of a former minister. And the judicial investigation led to dozens of ex-employees and businessmen arrested and even the accusation of the former president, Cristina Kirchner.
The Argentine case is typical where anger leads to counterproductive actions. In the first place, a “law of extinction of ownership” has been promoted with the intention of recovering the ill-gotten goods. But this law is unnatural – it violates the principle of private property – since it empowers the government to decide that the ownership of a person over a property has expired, which of course only the market does and voluntarily. Then, the government tries to install the idea that Argentina is being cleaned of corruption and that in the future the State will be reliable, which is unreal.
According to Transparency International, the least corrupt countries are New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Singapore, Sweden, Canada, Luxembourg, Holland, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, Iceland, Austria, Belgium, USA. , etc. While the least transparent are Tajikistan, Chad, Eritrea, Angola, Turkmenistan, Iraq, Venezuela, North Korea, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, South Sudan and, finally, Somalia the most corrupt.
On the other hand, according to The Heritage Foundation, in 2018 the most economically free countries are Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, Australia, Ireland, Estonia, United Kingdom, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Iceland, Denmark, Taiwan, Luxembourg, Sweden, Georgia, the Netherlands, USA, etc. While the least free are Angola, Ecuador, Suriname, ¬Timor-Leste, Togo, Turkmenistan, Mozambique, -Algeria, Bolivia, ¬Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Republic of the ¬Congo, Cuba, ¬Venezuela and finally the most repressed, North Korea.
Although these rankings are not very accurate, clearly the freest countries are the least corrupt: the more the government intervenes, the more corruption is created because officials are more susceptible to being bribed by the greatest number of people affected. In short, combating corruption without diminishing state interference is like entering a brothel and pretending not to have sex.
* Member of the Advisory Board of the Center on Global Prosperity, Oakland, California