Edward C. Banfield on Corruption as a Feature of Governmental Organization

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 8.51.19 AMIn the autumn 2015 copy of the Claremont Review of Books, Christopher DeMuth writes:

Political scientist Edward C. Banfield argued 40 years ago that corruption is an inherent feature of government. Like Cost, he believed fragmented government invites interest-group manipulation and extra-governmental authority structures, such as party organizations and public-private alliances. But Banfield described many other factors that are independent of political fragmentation, grounded instead in the nature of political decision-making and monopoly. These included: fragmented authority within government organizations; ambiguous and often conflicting goals; lack of objective metrics of performance; transitory leadership; inflexible pay scales and inability to punish even egregious misbehavior; captive “shareholders” (citizens); and the powerful lure of non-pecuniary incentives, especially the opportunity to wield power. The importance of these general characteristics is suggested by the prevalence of corruption and interest-group capture in state and local government, such as Plunkitt’s Tammany Hall machine, which are free of Cost’s mismatch.

DeMuth was a student and great friend of Banfield, and understands Banfield’s work better than anyone.

One can read Banfield’s “Corruption as a Feature of Governmental Organization” at http://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/-here-the-people-rule_165254919061.pdf. Indeed, if one searches for the term “corruption” in the aforementioned text, one will see that Banfield wrote of corruption in other essays too, such as “”In Defense of the American Party System.”

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