How Communism Breeds Corruption

In early 2017, Romania’s Prime Minister suddenly passed an executive order that made it almost impossible to convict high level officials for abuse of power He said that the law was a way to ease pressure on the country’s overcrowded prisons, however critics accuse him of using it to free some of his political allies from corruption charges

After news broke, thousands of Romanians poured into the streets in the country’s largest uprising in nearly three decades Europe is generally seen as an example of fairness and transparency in government, with countries like Denmark and Switzerland consistently ranking among the least corrupt However in much of eastern Europe, including Romania, bribery and other forms of corruption are still a part of daily life So, why is there this discrepancy? Well, much of Eastern Europe was either part of or aligned with the Soviet Union This meant that these countries had centralized economies, where everything from production, to prices to individual incomes was controlled by the state

In economies where everything is equal, incentives for demanding and offering bribes is high, as it’s often the only way to function as a business This culture of corruption was only exacerbated under soviet-era dictators, who built loyal regimes that ruled long after the Soviet Union fell To understand how this works, look no further than Romania, a country that was communist for more than three decades This started in the aftermath of World War Two, when the Soviet Union took the country under its wing as a satellite state In 1965, Nikolae Ceausescu (nee-kohl-EYE-eh chow-oo-SHEHS-koo) took over and although he distanced the country from the USSR, he created his own, more repressive, brand of communism

Ceausescu transformed Romania into an industrialized, closed-off economy, resulting in a nearly 10 percent drop in economic growth, widespread unemployment and extreme shortages of food, energy and other necessities Meanwhile, he became a brutal and oppressive dictator, enforcing strict controls on media and opposition and ordering the arrest, torture and execution of thousands of people This eventually culminated in a violent revolution and coup d’etat and in 1989, Ceausescu and his wife were executed Romania then began to make democratic reforms But Romanians failed to see that Ceausescu was only the tip of the iceberg

During his reign he built a huge, politically like-minded regime, which for more than a decade after the revolution, maintained a major stake in politics Although Romanians had gotten rid of Ceausescu, they hadn’t purged his foundation So many of the same abuses of power continued This problem was not uncommon among post-communist states in Eastern Europe Perhaps counterintuitively, Romania’s transition to a free-market also opened up opportunities for foul play

During the process of privatization, corrupt relationships formed between politicians and corporations, leading to bribes and kickbacks What’s more, many members of the elite were able to hold on to wealth and power by laundering money and rigging elections After the Soviet Union fell, many countries established democratic institutions, but they failed to get rid of corrupt individuals and norms, which in some cases continue today In fact, many of Romania’s modern politicians are former communists or have connections to the communist party With abuse of power so deeply rooted in its history and culture, rooting it out completely may take more than a revolution

And even with its enduring legacy of corruption, Romania is still far cleaner than this country, which consistently ranks as Europe’s most corrupt Want to know more? Check out this video Thanks for watching Seeker Daily! Don’t forget to like and subscribe for new videos

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