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A welcome global shift against corruption

A world survey by Transparency International shows rising resentment against corruption – and for people acting on it. One of the most effective tools: higher levels of education.

A demonstrator burns a caricature of Rio de Janeiro Gov. Sergio Cabral near other protesters wearing Guy Fawkes masks during a protest in front of his residence July 4. Tens of thousands of Brazilians have taken to the streets since June, fueled by grievances ranging from poor public services to corruption.


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Surveys of global opinion are rare enough. Even rarer are those that reveal how honest much of humanity can be.

A new poll by the anti-corruption watchdog group Transparency International finds that two-thirds of people who have been asked to pay bribes say they refused to pay at least once. Two out of 3 of those polled say ordinary people can make a difference in curbing corruption. In fact, those who believe in a citizen’s ability to act on corruption have refused to pay bribes more often than those who don’t.

These encouraging signs of people power are important because the survey also showed more than half of people consider government to be ineffective in fighting corruption. Police, judges, and political parties top the list as the most corrupt. Religious institutions are seen as the least corrupt.

This pessimism helps explain a number of mass protests against corruption, such as those in India two years ago and in Brazil in recent weeks. The Arab Spring began when a Tunisian vegetable seller refused to pay a bribe to a policewoman.

The survey by Berlin-based Transparency International asked 114,000 people in 107 countries about their experiences with corruption. A majority say it has worsened since 2010. These perceptions reflect more than moral concerns or feelings of unfairness. Corruption can hold back an economy. In Mexico, for example, the poorest households spend a third of their income on bribes, according to one study.


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