Thursday, December 11, 2008

But it got better after Berg and Lileks moved 

I am still waiting for my own copy of my book. (Bryan says he got his today, so he verifies the book's existence.) One of the things a reader would learn from it is how to measure corruption. You shouldn't do it this way:
Its largest city is legendary for machine-style politics and its elected leaders have been under investigation for years, but by one measure, Illinois is not even close to the nation's most-corrupt state.

North Dakota, it turns out, may hold that distinction instead.

They have a map for this, too! It calculates the ratio of corruption convictions to population. Which is a crazy way to do this: You can lower your corruption index by not prosecuting crooks. That's not what they do in NoDak, they say:

Don Morrison, executive director of the non-partisan North Dakota Center for the Public Good, said it may be that North Dakotans are better at rooting out corruption when it occurs.

"Being a sparsely populated state, people know each other," he said. "We know our elected officials and so certainly to do what the governor of Illinois did is much more difficult here."

Morrison said the state has encouraged bad government practices in some cases by weakening disclosure laws. North Dakota does not require legislative or statewide candidates to disclose their campaign expenses.

The analysis does not include corruption cases handled by state law enforcement and it considers only convictions. Corruption may run more rampant in some states but go undetected.

There are international measures, most commonly used being the Transparency International rankings of bribe payers and corruption perceptions. The large issue found in the paper in our book, by Omer Gokcekus and Justin Myrie, studies the relationship between officials' pay and their level of corruption. Micro-level studies seemed to be more persuasive. I would argue that corruption is higher in places where the top pay of the private sector is greatest, which is not inconsiderable in Chicago. What do you suppose it takes to be in the top 1% of the income distribution in North Dakota?

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