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Thinking Through Political Corruption: The View from Athens

Kellam Conover

Stanford Law School

June 6, 2011

The ancient Athenian democracy was a model of economic and political development. This paper looks at Athens' various legal and institutional reforms for combating bribery. Unlike contemporary anti-corruption agendas, the Athenians treated anti-corruption reform as a process in democratization. Although it is impossible to measure the efficacy of their reforms, the historical record suggests that they were successful insofar as they fostered less disruptive patterns of corruption over time. To account for why this might have been the case, I examine one design feature essential to these reforms: the creation of a private right of action for "anyone who wanted" to prosecute a bribery suit. As I argue, this feature could have established a 'political' level of enforcement that eliminated the most disruptive patterns of corruption over time.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 39

Keywords: Athens, democracy, corruption, bribery, institutional design, anti-corruption reform, enforcement, democratization, legal history

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Date posted: February 4, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Conover, Kellam, Thinking Through Political Corruption: The View from Athens (June 6, 2011). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1998296 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1998296

Contact Information

Kellam Conover (Contact Author)
Stanford Law School ( email )
559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States
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