This chapter sets the foundation of the rest of her book by first analyzing different aspects of two competing theories on how to reform institutions. she then follows by proposing her own theory based off of more specific examples; especially in Latin America. Her theory that she sets up is that a slow-moving reform movement will ultimately be more successful than a powering one.
This chapter speaks to the importance of measuring state capability not through the analysis of how successful policies are, but through studying a state’s capability for implementation. The authors decide to use Quality of Governance indicators on corruption, law & order and bureaucratic quality; effectiveness of public services (is this actually measuring capability and not successful policies?); and World Governance Indicators on government effectiveness. Through measuring the agencies within a country and studying the relationship between all the indicators and their capability score, they determine to have created an accurate way to measure capability.
This chapter used a lot of country cases to illustrate that the eradication of corrupt practices needs 1. political will, 2. legal framework, 3. educated and brave population, 4. free media, 5. enthusiastic ombudsmen and auditors general, 6. a national commission, 7. independent judiciary, 8. diligent prosecutors or attorneys. Although it seems impossible to fulfill the whole list of anti-corruption actions, countries like Singapore did manage to reduce corruption level radically. But for a lot of developing countries, corruption has been part of their economic system. Even though the author tells all these countries what to do, I feel these countries will either be reluctant to follow these guidelines, or only do the surface work.
Two of the readings this week focus specifically on whether incremental or radical change is more effective for expelling corruption. On one hand, Rothstein argues for the “big bang” procedure of eliminating corruption. According to him, most corruption stems from people’s perceptions of others’ levels of corruption. In other words, he argues that if everyone believes everyone else is corrupt, they will also lean into corrupt tendencies, even if they believe it is morally wrong. As a result, he argues that slow incremental changes will be ineffective in changing this workplace culture because they will not adequately prove that corruption has been reformed for everyone, and people may still operate under the assumption that everyone is still crooked. On the other hand, Bersch argues that slow incremental changes are the only way to create lasting change. According to her, these small adjustments allow for a greater learning curve, and therefore an increased ability to develop comprehensive changes. Additionally, small changes allow bureaucrats to maintain autonomy and integrate new practices into already existing systems. Her argument is based on the idea that small incremental changes will stem from people with the greatest understanding of their specific sphere, rather than from one figure who tries force similar reforms onto dissimilar issues. I’m inclined to agree more with Bersch’s analysis of incremental changes. To me, Rothstein’s article seems to be a slight oversimplification of the multifaceted issue of corruption. I do believe that workplace culture is extremely important in curbing corruption and should be considered in reform. However, if we are talking about creating more lasting changes, I agree with Bersch that integrating reforms into existing and accepted institutions will make the most sense.
You may have noticed that the book title is capability and not capacity, and even in writing it out for this post I flipped them around originally. In this chapter the authors dive into how they define capability differently than capacity, why it matters in their analysis and even why it matters in policy implementation. They define capability as the “ability of an organization to equip, enable and induce” their bureaucrats to make the right choices to achieve the correct outcome. Capacity is the individual’s ability to recognize and act correctly, but capability is the organization or institutional setup to allow the individuals to produce the correct outcomes. This is not to say that capability is only due to country-level features such as laws. Creating functional and capable organizations is not a top down or a bottom up process, rather one that must be looked at as a whole.