APPENDICES TO THE MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
Memorandum submitted by Philip Allott
GOVERNMENTAL CORRUPTION IS A PHILOSOPHICAL
1. History shows that the threat of governmental
corruption is a natural condition of society, an endemic disease
of the body politic. All public power is always and everywhere
corruptible. Governmental corruption is a sort of social entropy.
It requires a powerful and sustained social effort to overcome
it. We in Europe have struggled for centuries to overcome governmental
corruption, not only in the absolute monarchies, but also in the
earlier forms of constitutional monarchy (as in Britain), and
in the urban republics.
2. And we must frankly say that the natural
tendency to corruption is never finally overcome. Even in the
most sophisticated democracies, the corrupting of public power
through the improper use of money and influence is an every-present
threat, a threat which takes new forms, ever-more complex and
subtle forms going beyond the age-old buying and selling of public
decisions. Every society, each in its own way, struggles with
the shared human genetic inheritance of governmental corruption.
3. It follows that it is a double error
to suppose that governmental corruption can be cured by institutional
fixes, by narrowly focused law-making and law-enforcement, or
to suppose that there is one solution that fits all societies.
The infinite cultural and systematic diversity of human societies
means that there must be an infinite diversity of responses to
the corrupting of public power. But one thing we seem to have
learned is that the only sustainable remedy lies in a profound
remodelling of society at the level of general ideas, a re-imaging
which, in its practical application, must be tailored to fit the
particular condition of each particular society.
4. In Europe there have been, and there
still are, different attitudes and different practices in the
treatment of the disease of governmental corruption. But our collective
experience and collective thinking have led us to find a long-term
remedy in something which has been encapsulated in the idea of
constitutionalism, a sort of philosophical social revolution
which has meant different things in our different countries but
which has a common core of theoretical and practical significance.
5. Crucial to the treatment of the problem
of the corruption of public power are three aspects of the society-changing
philosophy of constitutionalism.
(1) It involves accepting the idea that the
public wealth of society is distinct from the personal
wealth of the holder of public power. The wealth of a commonwealth
is common wealth. And the public wealth of a society includes
its natural resources, the economic product of its citizens, and
all forms of public revenue, including foreign public and private
(2) It involves accepting the idea that the
public interest of society is not the same thing as the
private interest of the holders of public power. The survival
and prospering of a society is the survival and prospering of
all of its citizens.
(3) It involves accepting the idea, which
European monarchs found very difficult to accept, that public
power is a product of the law, not the source of law. It follows
that the limits of public power are determined by, and enforced
by, the law.
6. Unless and until these ideas begin to
be accepted by the holders of public power, the mere criminalising
of particular acts of corruption is the application of bandages
to a body stricken by the plague.
1 Reader in International Public Law, University of