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The Moral Dimensions of Corruption

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In our earlier blogs on corruption we have looked at the causes and consequences of corruption within the process of economic development. In our last blog, Six Strategies to Fight Corruption, we addressed the question of what can be done about it, and discussed the role of economic policies in developing the right sorts of incentives and institutions to reduce its incidence. This blog will provide some thoughts on the moral dimensions of corruption.

In his erudite and all-encompassing study of bribery through the ages, Noonan (1984, p. 700) observes that “the common good of any society consists not only in its material possessions but in its shared ideals. When these ideals are betrayed, as they are betrayed when bribery is practiced, the common good, intangible though it be, suffers injury.” Bribery and corruption—however much the experts may wish to disguise them in the language of costs and benefits and economic choices—have a moral dimension. We ignore it at our own…