Transparency International recently published the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2021, which showed that the U.S. dropped out of the top 25 most trusted countries. Given that our score was a 67 out of 100, we have a D. That’s a failing grade in Texas schools, yet we still blindly shout about being the best.
As stated on Transparency.org, “The CPI ranks 180 countries and territories around the world by their perceived levels of public sector corruption,” with corruption defined as “the misuse of public power for private benefits.” The results are given on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). If we were actually the best, we’d rank at the top of the anti-corruption scale, not tied for 27th place. That’s 25 other countries that are better at fighting corruption and one that is equally lacking. Sure, there are worse, more corrupt countries out there, but being better than a country where getting ahead is based on bribes doesn’t sound like a win. Knowing that we are a country that holds ethics and honesty in high regard is a win. We’re not there. We’re slipping faster by the year. In fact, two years ago I wrote a post on the 2019 CPI index which showed our CPI slipping and dropping out of the top 20 countries in the world. In this most recent CPI index the U.S. continued its slippage, and for the first time dropped out of the top 25 countries in the world, now tied at number 27 with Chile.
This isn’t to say that we should hang our heads and just accept that our government and companies get more corrupt by the year. If we can move down, we can move up. Look at Moldova, Panama, Cameroon, and others that moved up the index.
In another TI posting focusing on the United States, TI notes that it is hopeful the new anti-money laundering law passed in 2021, taking effect in 2022, is a step in the right direction to cut down on corruption. Time will tell. But if we stick to the status quo, we will continue to slip down the index. Corruption breeds corruption, as they say. Now is the time to reign in the corrupt actors and promote ethical leaders instead.
I can say from experience that it isn’t easy to call out corruption when speaking alone against the actions of many. But I must also believe there are more ethical people in this country than unethical. If we all speak together, the corrupt few will find hiding their actions more difficult. We cannot let our country continue to slip and expect bad actors to change their ways.
As I wrote before, “Ethics is not a one-time thing, it is a way of life, a way of doing business and serving the community that is a very part of the pillars of a company. Ethics is a daily practice, an all-time thing, and to publicly honor the companies that embody its working principles sends a very clear message.” This applies to the public sector, too.
We need to take action at every level. We, each of us, need to call out problematic behavior when we see it. Remove high-ranking officers who misuse public power for private benefit. And enforce laws in place to protect us from the corruption of a few.