According to Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index, the United States dropped out of the world’s 20 least corrupt countries for the first time since 2011. On a scale of zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean), the nation fell four points to a score of 71. “The low score comes at a time when the U.S. is experiencing threats to its system of checks and balances as well as an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power,” the organization noted.
Corruption is linked to the health of democracies: Full democracies score an average of 75; flawed democracies an average of 49; hybrid regimes—those with elements of autocratic tendencies—average 35; autocratic regimes come in lowest, with an average of 30. More than two-thirds of countries now fall below a 50, with a global average of only 43.
“Corruption chips away at democracy to produce a vicious cycle, where corruption undermines democratic institutions and, in turn, weak institutions are less able to control corruption,” said Patricia Moreira, managing director of Transparency International.