Tuesday, February 4, 2014

European Commission Measures Culture of Corruption

How widespread is corruption across Europe? The European Commission released a report on the subject, and the English-language electronic title of the report includes the prefix “Microsoft Word,” as if to say, “Even naming rights for our official reports are for sale!” Of course, it is also possible that the inappropriate product placement was the result of a questionable government software purchase followed by a series of editorial errors and omissions, but I am not sure that is the more charitable interpretation.

The substance of the report is itself cause for concern, with the overwhelming majority of citizens surveyed across every EU country saying that official corruption is widespread and getting worse. Only 4 percent said corruption was “very rare.” One likely indication that corruption is indeed getting worse is that respondents between 15 and 24 years of age and students were far more likely to see corrupt practices as an everyday part of government operations, when compared to respondents 55 years of age and older and retirees.

But the electronic form of the report is perhaps the most stark reminder of how widespread government corruption has become. How could the signs of corruption go unnoticed on the government’s own report on the subject, but that government officials see these signs so often that they have stopped noticing?