Press Release

Combating Corruption: New Dædalus Issue Examines How to Halt Political & Corporate Graft


CAMBRIDGE, MA | July 3, 2018 — Corruption can be ruinous, destroying nations, institutions, communities, individuals, the environment, and the very notion of public trust. Corruption self-reinforces, respects no law or border, and reproduces like disease. The cost of corruption is estimated at $1 trillion annually–a loss of roughly 2 percent of global GDP–and disproportionately harms the countries and people that can least afford it. But corruption is not inevitable, and it is not unstoppable; the battle against pervasive and engrained corruption can be won.

Anticorruption: How to Beat Back Political & Corporate Graft,” the Summer 2018 issue of Dædalus, Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, features fifteen essays exploring the nature of modern global corruption—and how to defeat it. Highlighting examples from the United States, Brazil, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Nigeria, and Singapore, the authors in this issue offer innovative, strategic, and practical recommendations to target public and private corruption. The authors recognize the enormity of their challenge, but focus on what is possible and what must be done: anticorruption successes are hard-won and difficult to sustain, but are essential for economic and social growth and political accountability. As guest editor and Academy Member Robert I. Rotberg (Harvard Kennedy School) writes in his introductory essay, “the anticorruption ideal is common to all nations, all traditional cultures.”

Writing from the perspective of the federal judge overseeing its prosecution, Sérgio Fernando Moro (Thirteenth Federal Criminal Court of Brazil) details the ongoing anticorruption investigation known as Operação Lava Jato (“Operation Car Wash”). Beginning as an isolated instance of corruption in the Brazilian oil company Petrobras, Lava Jato has grown into the largest anticorruption effort in Brazilian history, leading to, so far, more than sixty criminal cases brought against nearly three hundred defendants in Brazilian federal courts. Moro shows how independent investigators and judges can follow due process to convict high-ranking corrupt politicians and business executives who were previously thought to be untouchable. Moro highlights the fundamental parts of the investigation to offer lessons for anticorruption efforts elsewhere.

Zephyr Teachout (Fordham University School of Law) turns the focus away from corrupt elected or appointed officials and toward private actors who selfishly exercise public power. Teachout argues that when corporations exercise public power selfishly, putting profit above public interest, they are engaging in corrupt behavior. Her approach is prophylactic, centered not on targeting monopolies like Google but on preventing future consolidation of corporate power and private corruption. As a remedy, Teachout focuses on opportunities for new antimonopoly and campaign finance laws. As she concludes, the problem is not with the existence of the corporation, the “problem is with concentrated power: a handful of actors who are sui generis; so large and powerful they can bend public power. The modern anticorruption movement chooses not to address these large actors, using formalism or legalism as an excuse, at all of our peril.”

Minxin Pei (Claremont McKenna College) uses China to explain how not to fight corruption. Judging by the numbers, General Secretary Xi Jinping’s ferocious anticorruption campaign can only impress: From late 2012 to July 2017, the drive has investigated and sanctioned or imprisoned tens of thousands of Communist Party and military and police officials, including vice ministers, generals, and deputy provincial governors, and other high-ranking officials. Yet this enforcement-centered strategy, Pei argues, is fundamentally a political purge of Xi’s rivals, and is neither sustainable nor durable. Pei recommends that China rebalance its enforcement drive with corruption prevention, passing mandatory rules of wealth disclosure and spending transparency, and relinquishing Party control of the economy. Although Pei believes that the Chinese Communist Party will not tolerate the political risks of such reforms, he creates a model for states that do possess the political will to build a successful long-term anticorruption program.

The issue of Dædalus and the vast expertise of its authors–including both academics and law-makers–can help address the gap between widespread corruption and a universal preference to live without its dysfunction and impediments.

Detailed descriptions of the essays as well as some essays in their entirety are available online. For more information, please contact

The Summer 2018 issue of Dædalus on “Anticorruption: How to Beat Back Political & Corporate Graft” features the following essays:

Accomplishing Anticorruption: Propositions & Methods
Robert I. Rotberg (Harvard Kennedy School)

Seven Steps to Control of Corruption: The Road Map
Alina Mungiu-Pippidi (Hertie School of Governance, Germany)

Fighting Systemic Corruption: The Indirect Strategy
Bo Rothstein (University of Gothenburg, Sweden)

Reforming Reform: Revising the Anticorruption Playbook
Michael Johnston (Colgate University; International Anti-Corruption Academy)

Getting to Accountability: A Framework for Planning & Implementing Anticorruption Strategies
Matthew M. Taylor (American University)

Combating Corruption in the Twenty-First Century: New Approaches
Paul M. Heywood (University of Nottingham, United Kingdom)

Corruption & Purity
Susan Rose-Ackerman (Yale University)

The Problem of Monopolies & Corporate Public Corruption
Zephyr Teachout (Fordham University School of Law)

Corruption & Illicit Trade
Louise I. Shelley (George Mason University)

The World Needs an International Anti-Corruption Court
Mark L. Wolf (United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts)

Preventing Systemic Corruption in Brazil
Sérgio Fernando Moro (Thirteenth Federal Criminal Court in Curitiba, Brazil)

Corruption & State Capture: What Can Citizens Do?
Sarah Bracking (King’s College London)

Strategies for Advancing Anticorruption Reform in Nigeria
Rotimi T. Suberu (Bennington College)

Combating Corruption in Asian Countries: Learning from Success & Failure
Jon S.T. Quah (National University of Singapore)

How Not to Fight Corruption: Lessons from China
Minxin Pei (Claremont McKenna College)

NOTE: Please credit Dædalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, when citing this material.