Oxford’s Bo Rothstein, one of the most influential political scientists in the world today, will discuss the historical experience of Scandinavian countries in eradicating corruption and transforming themselves into advanced democracies.
What makes countries successful? Is it the quality of their institutions? Is it the size of their governments? Is it that they have competitive, efficient economies or strong welfare systems—and are the two necessarily mutually exclusive?
Swedish political scientist Bo Rothstein, one of the most influential political scientists in the world today, has spent the last 30 years studying these questions. In The Quality of Government (University of Chicago Press, 2011), he made the case that impartiality in the exercise of power is a necessary feature of quality government, and that strong institutions and regulations are a requisite for the function of competitive market economies.
Rothstein is a professor of government and public policy at the Blavatnik School of Government in Oxford. Before that, he held the August Röhss Chair in Political Science at the University of Gothenburg and co-founded the university’s Quality of Government Institute, which aims “to address the theoretical and empirical problem of how political institutions of high quality can be created and maintained.”
This week, Rothstein will hold two events at The Stigler Center. Among other things, Rothstein will focus on the success of Nordic countries, long considered to be the world’s best governed, in eradicating corruption. The levels of social trust and confidence in government in Scandinavian countries are among the highest in the world. According to Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index, Denmark, Finland and Sweden are seen as the world’s least corrupt countries. In 2013, The Economist labeled the Nordic model as “the next supermodel.”
What makes Scandinavian countries non-corrupt? In a 2011 paper, Rothstein argued that corruption should not be understood as a principal-agent problem, as it has been viewed by most political scientists, but instead as a collective action (“social trap”) problem. Illustrating his argument with a case study of Sweden’s efforts to eradicate corruption in the 19th century, he made the case that incremental policies based on the principal-agent theory will only exacerbate corruption, and that what is needed is a “big bang” type of change that will create “a new equilibrium of social and economic exchange.”
On Monday, Rothstein will talk about the historical experience of Scandinavian countries in eradicating corruption and transforming themselves into advanced democracies. The talk will take place on April 11th at 5:00 PM. On Tuesday, he will participate in a discussion on welfare, competition, and quality of government with Chicago Booth’s Luigi Zingales and University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan. The event will take place on April 12th at 5:00 PM.