7 E. Eur. Const. Rev. 56 (1998)
Dancing with Anticorruption

handle is hein.journals/eeurcr7 and id is 256 raw text is: Is government complicity in corruption a form of economic protectionismP
Dancing with Anticorruption
Ivan Krastev

even centuries ago Dante placed those guilty of
treachery in the deepest and darkest circles of
Hell. Historians point to political reasons for his
dislike of corruption. Bribery was deemed responsible
for the failures of the Italian republics and for the
success of Dante's political enemies.
Nowadays, reports of bribery and other abuses
of public office can be found not only in new editions
of Dante's Inferno but also on the front pages of news-
papers and magazines. Stories of the pervasiveness of
corruption in Russia, Mexico, and Nigeria-just to
name a few-make for exciting reading. Italian clean
hands and postcommunist dirty linen have
become two of the most redolent catchphrases of the
post-Cold War world.
But why has corruption become such an impor-
tant topic for public debate? Behind this question lies
another: How    sincere are today's postcommunist
governments in their declared war on corruption?
In a paper written for the IMF, Corruption
Around the World: Causes, Consequences, Scope,
and Cures, Vito Tanzi argues that it is difficult to
measure whether corruption is more widespread
today than earlier, and if so, to what extent; but it is
also obvious to everyone, Tanzi adds, that corruption
has become a key issue for both understanding and
reforming the current state of affairs (IMF Working
Paper, May 1998). Corruption is widely held respon-
sible for the failure of market reforms in countries like
Russia and Bulgaria as well as for the collapse of the
Asian miracle. The credibility of governments and
political leaders has begun to hinge on the intensity of
their commitments to fighting corruption.

The end of the Cold War, the spread of democracy,
the new power of the free media, the increasing
globalization of trade, and the rise of free-market
economies are commonly listed among the factors
that explain the emergence of a new consensus on
anticorruption. In Washington, the consensus of the
development community could be summarized as:
more reform means less corruption. Not only has
anticorruption become fashionable, but the terms of
the debate have radically changed. At the beginning
of the century, corruption was analyzed mainly in
cultural and political terms; in communist circles, it
was viewed as a bourgeois legacy. Today, corruption
is debated mainly in economic terms. Some fifty years
ago, corruption was considered a reflection of the
moral fallibility of human nature, while today the
focus is on opportunities and incentives: anticorrup-
tion policies aim to restrict the demand and supply of
acts of corruption. Some thirty years ago, economists
and political scientists-Samuel Huntington among
them-argued that corruption could play a positive
role in the process of modernization. Today, no one
assigns corruption a constructive role.
Two important sides of the issue are neglected in
the present-day obsession with corruption, especially
in the transition economies. First, postcommunist
governments are necessarily of two minds about
corruption. And, second, an anticorruption campaign
is a very useful platform for attacking reformist poh-
cies  and   reform-minded    governments.    The
protectionist character of present-day corruption is
one of the principal reasons for the selective approach
of the reformist governments in grappling with it. At

56                                                                       EAST EUROPEAN CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW

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