State capture is a global norm.  It is, says the International Monetary Fund (IMF), “the most pernicious and intractable problem” in many countries.  A typical definition is “political corruption in which private interests …  influence …  decision-making …  through unobvious channels”.  It might be lawful or criminal.  It works through “the legislature, executive, ministries and judiciary”.  The IMF researched capture by companies.  Had it added organs of state, civil society, bureaucrats, trade unions, academics and others, there would not be much legitimate government left. . . . . . Having captured the state completely, rulers were ruthless.  Peter the Great executed corrupt officials, yet he could not stop state capture.  Roman Emperor Diocletian executed traders when consumers paid more than he thought they should.  Despots like Genghis Khan, Shaka Zulu, Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler routinely tortured, murdered and plundered to preserve state capture.  Museums display diabolical contraptions for torturing state capture rivals.  Virtually everyone wants to capture government power.  Since governments cannot be trusted to resist state capture patronage, they must be shackled by such elaborate checks and balances as rigorously enforced separation of powers, transparency, objective criteria for administrative action, equality at law, and investigative and prosecutorial independence.

State capture not only criminal, but can be lawful and transparent: Leon Louw’s latest column in BDlive published by Business Day today.

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