Based on the number of convictions for violating federal corruption laws, Mississippi — a state with just three million citizens — ranks at the very top of the list of all states, according to a recent study. Two college professors published their report in the May/June issue of Public Administration Review.
They studied more than 25,000 convictions of public officials across the country for violating federal corruption laws, and even though Mississippi has a population of just three million, it topped the list for convictions compared to all other states.
The professors' study said the high level of corruption in the state resulted in high state spending on projects where it was conducive to make bribes — “bribe-generating” projects — such as capital improvements and highway construction, while leaving a paucity of cash for socially beneficial projects, such as schools and health facilities. It also noted massive cost overruns on “bribe-generating” projects, thanks to those bribes, as well as blatant payoffs to government officials, who are getting wealthy at the expense of the poor. Said the authors:
First, public officials’ corruption is likely to increase state spending….
Second, public officials’ corruption … show that states with higher levels of corruption tend to spend more on items on which corrupt officials may levy larger bribes at the expense of others….
Public resources may be used for the private interests of the few instead of the needs of the many.
This confirms another study published by Pew Research Center just a year ago that indicated Mississippi topped its list of the most corrupt states, with almost four public corruption convictions a year for every 10,000 state employees.
Jon Moen, chairman of economics at the University of Mississippi said corruption encourages businesses to join in and even encourage corruption:
Corrupt officials will encourage activities or businesses that will also provide them with the most benefits, whether they are outright bribes or more legal benefits like campaign contributions.
Rarely are these activities … true public goods, like elementary education, as they provide few direct monetary benefits that can be appropriated by a politician or a private interest.
A high level of corruption also discourages, or eliminates altogether, private entrepreneurial activity unless the business owner wants to play the game and build into his cost structure the bribes he must pay to operate.
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