Yesterday's blog about China was more fun than I expected. Just to be clear, I prefer the American system of government. But as regular readers know, I like to defend the opposite views from whatever I hold. It's a good test.

Many of you pointed out the problem of corruption in China. One source says it might amount to $86 billion per year, or 10 percent of government spending.


Therefore the Democratic/Republic form of government is better than Chinese communism, right?

I would argue that corruption is independent of the form of government. Corruption is just as much a crime in China as it is in the U.S. The difference is the effectiveness of enforcement. If you look at America early in this century, corruption was rampant, probably on the level of China today, yet our system of government was the same as now.

Consider that our system of government took more than 200 years to beat corruption down to its current level. China's political system is relatively new and their country is relatively huge. The only relevant question is whether corruption in China is trending better or worse. And I don't know the answer to that. Do you?

You can't measure trends in corruption by dollar amount. If corruption stays at a constant rate, the dollar amount would be growing. So someone Google me up a good statistic on Chinese corruption trends.

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Apr 10, 2009
I wouldn't worry about corruption trends and whether there is more corruption today than 100 years ago. For me, the simplest way to gauge it, is by what I perceive, what I can see in my daily life.

If I cannot conceive dealing with a public office (such as DMV, tax office, police, city hall, etc) without first calling a "cousin" to get me in or having a "gift" (aka "bribe" in legalese) on hand, so I can open some doors, just in case, then the corruption has metastasized to every level in the society.

Of course it puzzles me that the Fed saved Goldman Sachs (where the then Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson used to work) but let Lehmann Brothers (the competition) go down in flames, and maybe thas is corruption as well, but it doesn't really affect my daily life the same it would if I had to bribe every public office worker I come in contact with.

And, to be clear, that kind of big scale corruption exists here as well as there, but here the system works a little better for the little guy, such as myself.

I am from Eastern Europe, grew up in a communist country and my other non-American co-workers still look at me as if I were crazy when I tell them I'm happy to see a police car or a police officer here and don't start sweating bullets. Communist regimes are also police states, where police abuse is wide-spread, accountability is as good as non-existent, and the little guy is pretty much at the mercy of the system (not the law!!!). And it's really disgusting to see the mayor's son in law zipping by at 90 mph and all the street cops bowing and taking their hats off, while you were pulled over because the paint on the corner of your license plate had chipped and there was a rust patch the size of a penny to be seen (actually happened to my dad when I was 10).
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Apr 10, 2009
It didn't take the US 200 years to beat corruption down to its current level, it took the first 125 years or so to let it get so bad, and then the last 100 to beat it down. By that timeline, China should still be on the upswing.

The biggest difference now is at what level the corruption is most prevalent. In China, it's mostly local. The local party appartchik shaking you down for a bribe in order to get your business license or to not have them look too closely at all the arcane rules you might be violating. At the higher levels, they are more or less immune to that kind of corruption because they don't need millions of yuan , although they are typical politicians and can stil be flattered by celebrity and such. In the US, it is the mid and top level politicians who are most involved in corruption, even though they hide it pretty well by disguising it as gifts and low cost work and all. You don't see the local low level type corruption as much, such as the city official taking cash in order to get you on the schedule or the county deputy shaking you down, although it does still happen...

BTW, ntsergas should be banned from the blog. WTF does Rockband have to do with Chinese corruption?
Apr 10, 2009
I think the question is which system of government is more OPEN to corruption. The problem with Communism as a form of government is that the ruling class does not, inherently, have the same amount of public oversight, and is therefor more PRONE to corruption. The American system of government is only as corrupt as it is because people have let it get out of control, along with a large amount of apathy from the general public. So I guess what I'm saying is your argument seems to be entirely based on current results (or even worse, perceptions) rather than on POTENTIAL, which I would argue is the much more important metric.
Apr 10, 2009
"The difference is the effectiveness of enforcement"

That's hardly the only important difference. Enforcement is only one of the checks on corruption. Oversight and transparency are just as important. China is lacking on both.
Apr 10, 2009

China is corrupt but it's functionally corrupt. You generally get what you pay for. And corruption is limited to lower levels. The higher you get the more the risk. Beats places that are unfunctionally corrupt, like Nigeria.

All told, I'd rather deal with a party of secretary in Hunan, agreeing to buy all my stationary from his brother's shop, than with the IRS.

Anyway, it all reminds me of a Bukowski quote: "The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don't have to waste your time voting.
Apr 10, 2009
The best corruption indicator comes from Transparency International. It only measures perceived corruption, using survey methodology. But it's the best we've got.

Apr 10, 2009
"If you look at America early in this century, corruption was rampant, probably on the level of China today."

Now your just speculating. No, I think corruption will be minimal in a country with Free Press as opposed to that of China
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