Book Review – International Handbook on the Economics of Corruption, Volume Two

International Handbook on the Economics of Corruption, Volume Two, edited by Rose-Ackerman, Susan and Søreide, Tina.  Edward Elgar, 2011. Hardcover, 618 pages, £165. ISBN: 978-1-84980-251-2.

International Handbook on the Economics of Corruption, Volume Two, is a sequel meant to follow co-editor Susan Rose-Ackerman’s first volume from 2006, International Handbook on the Economics of Corruption. Now Rose-Ackerman and new co-editor Tina Søreide have assembled a truly international team of contributing writers for 19 chapters on the economic concept of corruption (defined by Rose-Ackerman and Søreide as “where the private search for economic advantage and personal advancement clashes with laws and norms that condemn such behavior”) and how it relates to politics, finance, industry, and crime.

After the editors’ introduction, the book is divided into six parts: General Overviews (containing the two broadest chapters, “Corruption and sustainable development” and “Curbing corruption with political institutions”), Procurement and Corruption, Privatization and Self-Dealing in Private Firms, Public Utility Regulation, Micro-Analytic Research: Households and Firms, and Policy Initiatives: Critiques and Evaluations. A detailed index at the end of the book provides for quick reference to the plethora of unfamiliar terms, concepts, and names introduced throughout the volume.

As a solution-oriented person, I was drawn the most to the chapters in Part VI: Policy Initiatives: Critiques and Evaluations. Edgardo Buscaglia’s chapter, “On best and not so good practices for addressing high-level corruption worldwide: an empirical assessment,” discussed and measured the effectiveness of the 2003 United Nations (Merida) Convention against Corruption, which contains “legal, judicial, investigative, intelligence, international legal/judicial cooperation, and preventive practices in the fight against public and private sector corruption” and has been ratified by 102 countries so far.  Francesca Recanatini’s chapter, “Anti-corruption authorities: an effective tool to curb corruption?” analyzed a World Bank-sponsored initiative to study the effectiveness of prevention, investigation, prosecution, and coordination functions of international anticorruption authorities (ACAs), comparing them by country and even by continent.

As you can imagine by now, International Handbook on the Economics of Corruption, Volume Two is a highly academic work, best suited for university libraries for graduate-level programs and classes in world economics, international studies, and political science. Academic law libraries at law schools with strong international and comparative law programs or classes on law and economics may consider it, but it is more useful for economics scholars than legal ones. Any law firms that specialize in international trade, finance, and economic development should consider acquiring it, but it would be a valuable reference for charities and other organizations that deal with international aid and development.

Unfortunately, as a result of not being an economics scholar (and not having read the previous edition), I found this book to be dense and difficult, though I fully realize and admit I am not the target audience. It is meticulously researched and written as clearly as possible, just meant for scholars, practitioners, and experts in the field. With pages of complicated economic equations, tables, and graphs, it is obviously not for casual reading. For nonexperts hoping to learn more about the nature of corruption and how it relates to institutions, I would sooner suggest starting by watching the five seasons of HBO’s The Wire, the greatest television show of all time.   

Louis Rosen is a reference librarian and assistant professor of law library at Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Florida.

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May 2012

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