I had the good fortune of presenting these ideas at the Brookings Institution’s World Forum on Governance in Prague. I gave my spiel, but had the nagging feeling that something was missing. The idea had not fully formed. And then a young prosecutor from an eastern European country raised her hand and shared a comment that I will never forget.
She said that in so much of the world, corruption is taken for granted. It is so pervasive, and customary, that it does not even occur to people that life could be different, much less that it ought to be. But, she said, once you frame corruption as the violation of a fundamental right, none of that matters anymore. That’s the power of reframing a social problem as an issue of rights. The right exists, by definition, regardless of what a government is now doing, or what a culture may have resigned itself to accepting.
The word “rights” prompts the human mind to acknowledge a deeper truth, one that transcends the mediocre present, and excites our hope that the world should be and could be different. And if the global anti-corruption movement is to truly succeed, this is precisely what must occur. People — ordinary people, on the street corner, in the barber shop, at the voting booth — must believe that their world should be different. That it ought to be different. And most all of us, irrespective of our nationality, can draw upon a native intellectual tradition that teaches us it must be different.
In an era of divisive political and religious ideologies, the belief in freedom from corruption may actually prove uncommonly unifying.
If these ideas pique your curiosity to any degree, please read our paper here. And if you have a comment, please do share.
Promoting the widespread recognition of a global anti-corruption ethic is, after all, precisely the purpose of the FCPA Blog.
Andy Spalding is a Senior Editor of the FCPA Blog and Assistant Professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.