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« The People's DOJ | Main | What's Wrong Down Under? »

Everybody Gets Hurt

Click on the image for more informationProfessor Elizabeth Spahn from New England Law | Boston spoke at Georgetown's symposium in March on combating global corruption. She made the case against bribery, debunking the old excuses that sometimes graft is necessary, or culturally acceptable, or that it's a victimless crime.

Prof Spahn has seen grand and petty corruption up close, in Indonesia and China, among other places. Don't try telling her a little grease for the wheels is just fine. It isn't, and she knows it.

Her latest salvo, adapted from her symposium talk, will appear in the Georgetown International Law Journal (summer 2010). Here's a sneak preview, courtesy of that publication:

If we get rich enough, maybe we could afford to personally avoid the avalanche of toxic products descending on clueless consumers of global products. Someone else’s puppies and babies get killed. We rich, educated very much First World Americans and Europeans can afford organic, locally grown slow food; children’s toys hand carved by hippies in Vermont or Tyrol. Caveat emptor, after all.

The impact of a self-reinforcing cycle of bribes, regulations and deteriorating quality control is not limited to consumer purchases however. Even the truly wealthy consume air and water. Systemic bribery has a negative impact on environmental regulation.

Analysis of a cross section of more than 100 countries . . . finds that corruption negatively impacts pollution control. Bribery reduced the effectiveness of environmental regulation. . . .

That analogy between bribery and garbage turns out to be more than merely hypothetical. Like it or not, we are all in this together. Everybody gets hurt.

In a uranium-tipped footnote to the passage, she says: "Illegal logging in Indonesia, combined with porous bribery-infected border controls in Borneo, created a cycle of environmental degradation . . . The entire Indian tiger population at the Sariska reserve was poached in a two year period. A large ship containing hundreds of tons of chemical waste containing hydrogen sulfide in concentrated doses dumped the waste off the coast of Ivory Coast killing ten people and sending another 100,000 to the hospital with unknown long-term consequences." [citations omitted].

Prof Spahn let's the world know where she stands, and it's a good place.

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