It is discretion alone that is responsible for corruption. A local government official cannot take a bribe from a developer if he has no discretion to determine the outcome. The same holds true for the immigration official, the mayor, the procurement officer, and the public hospital administrator. In every case, either by removing discretion from a government official’s role or by turning the activity over to the private sector, corruption can be made structurally impossible. On the other hand, the more discretion that is wielded by a public official, the more likely he is to ponder how he can benefit himself through the exercise of his capricious power. The more discretion, the more developers and defense suppliers, and every other person subject to official whim, will lie awake at night thinking of ways to influence that whim in their favor.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove