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Competitiveness and Corruption (Ohio Northern University College of Law)

For the last five years, the Ohio Northern University College of Law has had an upper-level course in Competitiveness and Corruption developed and taught by Professor Elena Helmer. The course is part of the curriculum of the Democratic Governance and Rule of Law LL.M. Program for public interest lawyers from transitional democracies and American lawyers interested in international development work. The course is mandatory for all LL.M. students but is also open to regular J.D. students.

Competitiveness and Corruption perceives corruption as one of the main impediments to development and antithesis to competitiveness.  The goal of the course is not only to stress the corrosive effect that corruption has on government, justice and efforts to develop truly free markets, but to demonstrate how corruption can be successfully reduced and limited through reforms.  Since this is a law school course, the emphasis is on the legal side of corruption and anticorruption although significant class time is devoted to corruption’s non-legal aspects. 

The primary modules of the course are as follows:

1.      Corruption and Its Costs

This section covers the nature of corruption, the concept of competitiveness, and how they relate to each other and to countries' economic development; the types of corruption; its causes and consequences.

2.      Corruption and Law

National and international legal response to corruption (government ethics laws and regulation of civil service; domestic anti-bribery statutes; the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act; international anticorruption conventions; international law enforcement cooperation, etc.).

3.      Corruption and Democracy

Corruption and democratic institutions; regulation of campaign finance and lobbying.

4.      Corruption and Business

The relationship between government and business, how it affects corruption and how corruption affects this relationship; extralegal (shadow) economy and corruption; economic reforms.

5.  Anticorruption Reforms

Successful and unsuccessful anticorruption reforms and the lessons they teach on how to limit corruption.


While the overall record of fighting corruption in most countries is not a good one, more than one student has said that, at the end of the course, they felt optimistic that the tools were available to make serious inroads into the problems of their countries.  


The principal text is "Corruption and Government" by Professor Susan Rose-Ackerman.  For every class, the book is supplemented by extensive handouts from such diverse fields as law, economics, business/management, political science, and others.  Throughout the semester, students do multiple research assignments which require written reports and class presentations.  The course ends up with a take-home exam focusing on the practical application of the material covered throughout the semester.


The success of the course in Competitiveness and Corruption is demonstrated by the fact that a quarter of the ONU foreign LL.M. graduates work in the anticorruption field in their home countries. Through Competitiveness and Corruption and many components of their other courses, the students develop an appreciation for the way the rule of law provides the critical underpinnings of the economic and political reforms transitional countries need in order to achieve stability and economic development.


The ONU College of Law also hosts Anticorruption Teaching Listserv moderated by Professor Elena Helmer,


29 Jun 2011

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