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Personal Corruption & Corrupting Laws: Montesquieu’s Twofold Theory of Corruption

Journal: Business Ethics and Leadership (BEL) (Vol.4, No. 4)

Publication Date:

Authors : ;

Page : 76-84

Keywords : Corruption; Legislation; Moderation; Montesquieu; Separation of Powers; Spirit of the Laws;

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Traditional views tend to identify the problem of corruption in the dishonesty of public officials. The main purpose of the research is to recover Montesquieu's view of corruption and show that there are at least two different causes of corrupt behaviors. In The Spirit of Laws, Montesquieu distinguishes “two kinds of corruption: one, when the people do not observe the laws, the other when they are corrupted by the laws; the latter is an incurable ill because it lies in the remedy itself.” Recent studies about Montesquieu's account of corruption do not pay much attention to this distinction. This paper unpacks the two kinds of corruption. The first kind tracks a problem of individuals who use their public office for private gain. The second track is the deficiency of the laws that contradict social behaviors and, therefore, are obeyed exclusively out of fear and violated whenever possible. The distinction is relevant to the anti-corruption literature because it implies two different ways to eradicate corruption. Corruption as a problem of individuals can be solved with better enforcement of the law: improving monitoring systems, better rewards for honesty, or higher punishments. Personal corruption can be dealt with what Celine Spector calls “a legislative arsenal.” However, improving enforcement mechanisms is unlikely to solve the problem in corrupting laws, given that people violate the law due to the high standards that it imposes on them. The solution for the second kind of corruption is to remove or modify the corrupting law. Montesquieu promoted the separation of powers and the spirit of moderation in the legislators to avoid corrupting laws. The result of this investigation is the importance of distinguishing between the situations in which more coercion can eradicate corruption and those in which more force against corruption leads to despotism.

Last modified: 2021-01-21 05:59:43