US No Longer Cracks Even Top 20 of Least Corrupt Countries

Just last month, the US was booted down to fourth place in global competitiveness after many years of reliably holding the number one position (though it had also slipped to second in 2009). Part of the reason for its marked drop was “the government’s ability to avoid meddling in the private sector” and the fact that is has become “a wasteful spender.”

As it turns out, Transparency International is equally aware of the US’ tarnished record. Last year, it ranked 19th on the Corruption Perceptions Index with a score of 7.5. Already, it was a showing hardly worth writing home about, and this year the nation couldn’t even fair that well.

From The Wall Street Journal:

“The U.S. scored a 7.1 on the new Transparency International index, its worst showing in the index’s history. The score is down from a 7.5 in 2009, and it resulted in the U.S. dropping out of the top-20 least corrupt countries for the first time.”

Among the factors leading to the ranking downgrade were ongoing revelations of scams of the Bernie Madoff variety and the machinations of parties involved in the subprime lending market. As for which countries made the top rankings, this from the Telegraph:

“[Transparency International] scores countries on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is perceived to be highly corrupt and 10 indicates low levels of corruption.

“Scoring 9.3, Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore head the chart, followed closely by Finland and Sweden at 9.2.

“…Unstable governments, often with a legacy of conflict, continue to dominate the bottom rungs of the CPI. Afghanistan and Myanmar share second to last place with a score of 1.4, with Somalia coming in last with a score of 1.1.”

The scoring didn’t end up very far from the global competitiveness rankings where — alongside number one Switzerland — Sweden, Singapore, and Denmark were also to be found in the top rungs. The financial crisis, which has many of its origins in less-than-savory US business practices, has blemished the historically prestigious legacy of the Anglo-Saxon way of commerce. Whether or not it can or will be redeemed again, or how long it may take, remains to be seen.

The full Corruption Perceptions Index 2010 report is available (as a PDF) from Transparency International here.


Rocky Vega,
The Daily Reckoning