Honey and Poison: On Corruption

I For as long as human beings have had governments, they have worried about public corruption. The Hebrew Bible warns repeatedly that those in authority — especially judges — should not take bribes, “for bribes blind the clear-sighted and upset the pleas of those in the right.” The Arthashastra, a third-century Indian text on the art of statecraft, cautioned that just as one cannot avoid “tasting honey or poison on the tip of the tongue,” government officials will inevitably be tempted to steal public money for themselves. Countless other examples — from classical Greece and Rome to Imperial China to the Islamic empires of the Near East — testify to the pervasiveness of public corruption across cultures and across time. Indeed, from the ancient world up through today, corruption has been a central concern of statesmen, philosophers, and journalists — and the undoing of powerful figures and the catalyst for

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