- - Thursday, August 20, 2015

When people read my report that 75 percent of the American people thought corruption was widespread in government, a number asked me how that 75 percent figure compared to other countries.

They were struck by the notion that three out of every four Americans believed there was “widespread corruption” in the American government.

“Is that just normal or is it a sign the United States is worse than other countries?” was a common question.

The Gallup World Poll has been asking this question all over the world since 2006. It shows a dramatic gap between perceived corruption in different countries. For example, only 44 percent of Canadians and 41 percent of Australians say that their country has widespread corruption. Germany is even better off with only 38 percent saying they have widespread corruption.

Russia, which we criticize for its corruption, has 4 percent fewer people saying their government has widespread corruption.

In the Gallup World Poll, there are actually 82 countries in which fewer people believe they have widespread corruption than the United States.

Americans can take some comfort.

Greeks, who are experiencing an enormous financial crisis, register a 10 percent higher belief (85 percent) of widespread corruption in their government.

In Italy, the belief in corruption reaches almost nine out of every 10 Italians (89 percent).

In countries with traditions of honesty, the gap is really striking.

In Switzerland, only one out of four (25 percent) of the Swiss believe there is widespread corruption in their government. That means three times as many Americans believe they live under a corrupt government as do the Swiss.

Some countries have traditions of reform and honesty that even surpass the Swiss: Denmark (19 percent); Sweden (14 percent); and Singapore (8 percent). Rwanda, which has had a relentlessly reform government, is the most honest government in the world as measured by its own citizens at 5 percent.

A pervasive belief in corruption is very dangerous for a country.

For example, in Brazil, frustration with failing politicians has grown into a wave of anti-corruption demonstrations that is shaking the system nationwide. These demonstrations are taking place in a country in which 74 percent of the people say in the Gallup World Poll that there is widespread corruption in their government.

As I wrote earlier this week, the fact that 75 percent of the American people believe that corruption is widespread in our government may be the most important single indicator in the U.S. presidential race. The rise of so many outsider candidates is a signal the American people are tired of words and want decisive change.

My next two articles will explore corruption as a danger to the entire structure of freedom.

First, we will look at the American Revolution and the deep hostility American Colonists felt toward the deep, pervasive corruption of the British government.

Finally, we will review the powerful condemnation of corruption by Pope Francis, who certainly witnessed it first hand in his native Argentina, where today four out of five (80 percent) Argentines believe there is widespread corruption in their government.

Corruption is not a side issue. It may become a defining issue if we are to genuinely fix the American government.

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