How ‘Islands of Honesty’ Can Crush a System of Corruption

experts say, the recent scandals may in fact be cautiously good news. They show that prosecutors and other institutions have managed to break free of those systems and hold their leaders to account — with overwhelming public support for that accountability when they do.

.. And the benefits of staying honest decline, because everybody is cutting in front of you in line to see the doctor, or winning the contracts that you might have had a decent chance of getting.”

.. A new equilibrium will take hold — one that favors dishonest dealings.

That kind of corrupt equilibrium is the background to South Korea’s current scandal.

.. Unmarried and childless, she highlighted her lack of close family as an asset to her presidency because so many previous scandals had involved steering assets to children or spouses.

.. Once a corrupt equilibrium is in place, experts say, it cannot be stopped until public trust in the government’s institutions and leaders is restored. That is why the investigations that have led to scandals in South Korea, Brazil, and elsewhere are so significant.

.. institutions are only strong when you believe in them

.. I don’t want to say that our institutions only exist in our minds, but really that’s true. What is the rule of law except that we ultimately believe that we ought to follow certain rules?”

But in corrupt systems that belief is often missing, because the institutions that are supposed to provide accountability are often weakened through bribery, threats, and other illicit means.

.. In Russia, control over both political power and corruption is concentrated among a small group of politicians and the oligarchs in their inner circle, and no institution or prosecutor has enough power to challenge them.


“I call them ‘islands of honesty’” Professor Stefes said. Such investigations are not sufficient on their own to eradicate corruption, he said. “But they certainly can make a difference as soon as they start spreading, especially when they can connect with civil society.”

Hillary’s Banana Republic

Rarely have 30 minutes of television so perfectly encapsulated the decline and fall of the rule of law and the extraordinary privileges enjoyed by America’s liberal elite. After listing abuse after abuse — and detailing lie after lie — Comey declared that “no reasonable prosecutor” would prosecute Hillary for her obvious and manifest crimes. It’s good to be a Clinton.

.. But rules and standards are for the little people. The FBI demolished every Clinton excuse and blew apart every Clinton lie, but soon she might well walk into rooms serenaded to the sweet sounds of “Hail to the Chief.” To paraphrase the words of Benjamin Franklin, we’ve got a banana republic, if Hillary can keep it.

Trump Could Threaten U.S. Rule of Law, Scholars Say

Donald J. Trump’s blustery attacks on the press, complaints about the judicial system and bold claims of presidential power collectively sketch out a constitutional worldview that shows contempt for the First Amendment, the separation of powers and the rule of law, legal experts across the political spectrum say.

Even as much of the Republican political establishment lines up behind its presumptive nominee, many conservative and libertarian legal scholars warn that electing Mr. Trump is a recipe for a constitutional crisis.

.. David Post, a retired law professor who now writes for the Volokh Conspiracy, a conservative-leaning law blog, said those comments had crossed a line.

“This is how authoritarianism starts, with a president who does not respect the judiciary,” Mr. Post said. “You can criticize the judicial system, you can criticize individual cases, you can criticize individual judges. But the president has to be clear that the law is the law and that he enforces the law. That is his constitutional obligation.”

.. Randy E. Barnett, a law professor at Georgetown and an architect of the first major challenge to President Obama’s health care law, said he had grave doubts on both fronts.

“You would like a president with some idea about constitutional limits on presidential powers, on congressional powers, on federal powers,” Professor Barnett said, “and I doubt he has any awareness of such limits.”

.. Several law professors said they were less sure about Mr. Trump, citing the actions of another populist, President Andrew Jackson, who refused to enforce an 1832 Supreme Court decision arising from a clash between Georgia and the Cherokee Nation.

“I can easily see a situation in which he would take the Andrew Jackson line,” Professor Epstein said, referring to a probably apocryphal comment attributed to Jackson about Chief Justice John Marshall: “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it.”


“He owns Amazon,” Mr. Trump said in February. “He wants political influence so Amazon will benefit from it. That’s not right. And believe me, if I become president, oh do they have problems. They’re going to have such problems.”