Weinergate and the Rule of Law

It’s been a slow week. With classes being out, I’ve had plenty of time to drink iced coffee and surf the web. Consequently, I have not been able to escape the flurry of media surrounding a certain congressman’s scandal. Part of me is incredulous at that amount of attention…really? REALLY? But another part of me is glad for all the good stuff about America – you know, free press, political accountability. In Cambodia, well, it’d be possible to get away with a whole lot more.

Given my last post and my current schedule, I’ve been thinking about the limitations of development aid (e.g. Peace Corps Volunteers like me) and promoting positive growth in more powerful forces (e.g. the government or the free market). I went looking for more information about the economic impact of government corruption, and I came across some good IMF reports, including the paper Why Worry About Corruption?, which says “…Corruption discourages investment, limits economic growth, and alters the composition of government spending, often to the detriment of future economic growth.” In other words, corruption is making developing countries poor now and keeping them poor in the future.

When I used to teach health ed classes, there was one statistic that for every dollar of anti-smoking advertising, there was something like a thousand dollars spent on advertising by tobacco companies. In this case, aid workers might be the anti-smoking campaign and government corruption is Phillip Morris. I know I’m not supposed to get too political on this blog, but check out what the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index has to say about Cambodia:

The World Justice Project is still very new, and their report evaluating only 66 countries is missing some notorious rule of law slackers in sub-Saharan Africa in the Middle East, so Cambodia’s close-to-last or dead-last rankings might not take into account some serious offenders. It’s a pretty neat report, though – ok, maybe only if you’re a nerd like me. Cambodia’s full evaluation is on page 55, and it includes some fancy graphs and all. It also talks about why rule of law matters –

(You should be able to click that to see it better.)

As for what I should be doing as a Peace Corps Volunteer, it beats me. I know I don’t want to give people free stuff. I know Cambodians need to spearhead their own economic growth and make their own government accountable. How do I encourage my students to be critical thinkers? How do we find and groom future leaders? What resources do they need that I can give them or help them find? I don’t think it’s me building a new flagpole, but then what?

Don’t worry, when I figure out all the answers, I’ll be sure to share.

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