Why do ordinary people engage in corruption? Kelly M. McMann contends that bureaucrats, poverty, and culture do not force individuals in Central Asia to pay bribes, use connections, or sell political support. Rather, corruption is a last resort when relatives, groups in society, the market, and formal government programs cannot provide essential goods and services. Using evidence from her long-term research in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, McMann shows that Islamic institutions, secular charities, entrepreneurs, and banks cannot provide the jobs and credit people need. This drives individuals to illicitly seek employment and loans from government officials. A leading cause of this resource scarcity is market reform, as demonstrated by McMann's analysis of these countries as well as of Uzbekistan and global data. Market reform without supporting institutions, such as credit registries and antimonopoly measures, limits the resources available from the market and societal groups. McMann finds that in these circumstances only those individuals who have affluent relatives have an alternative to corruption.By focusing on ordinary people, McMann offers a new understanding of corruption. Previously, our knowledge was largely restricted to government officials' role in illicit exchanges. From her novel approach comes a useful policy insight: supplying ordinary people with alternatives to corruption is a fundamental and important anticorruption strategy.
How do individuals decide to exercise their democratic rights? This book argues that they first assess their economic autonomy, meaning their ability to make a living independent of government authorities. Before individuals consider whether their resources and organizational abilities are adequate to act on their interests, they calculate the risk of political activism to their livelihood. This is particularly evident in regions of the world where states monopolize the economy and thus can readily harass activists at their workplaces. Economic autonomy links capitalism and democracy through individuals' calculations about activism. Accounts of activists' decisions about establishing independent media, leading political organizations, and running for office and descriptions of government harassment in Russia and Kyrgyzstan, along with examples from most regions of the world, illustrate these arguments. Economic autonomy and the interaction among democratic rights help explain the global proliferation of hybrid regimes, governments that display both democratic and authoritarian characteristics.