Political corruption, individual behaviour and the quality of institutions

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 17 (2):216-231 (2018)
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Abstract

Is the corrupt behaviour of public officials a politically relevant kind of wrong only when it causes the malfunctioning of institutions? We challenge recent institutionalist approaches to political corruption by showing a sense in which the individual corrupt behaviour of certain public officials is wrong not only as a breach of personal morality but in inherently politically salient terms. To show this sense, we focus on a specific instance of individual corrupt behaviour on the part of public officials entrusted with the power to implement public rules in a liberal democracy. Although not necessarily unlawful, their behaviour is politically wrong qua corrupt when it contradicts surreptitiously the requirement of public justification that undergirds the public order. Then, we distinguish this form of corruption as surreptitious action from such unlawful but publicly justifiable kinds of political misbehaviour as civil disobedience.

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