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be careful what you wish for

Populism is a snake oil cure for corruption, research says

When you've got trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with C and that stands for "corruption," voters often turn to populist leaders for solutions, lured by promises of greater equality and transparency as power is taken from the governing elite and returned to the people. Unfortunately, according to data from Transparency International's 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), an embrace of populism often makes corruption even worse.

"Corruption and social inequality are indeed closely related and provide a source for popular discontent," explains Finn Heinrich, research director for Transparency International. "Yet, the track record of populist leaders in tackling this problem is dismal; they use the corruption-inequality message to drum up support but have no intention of tackling the problem seriously."

The CPI cites nations like Turkey, Hungary, and Venezuela as recent examples of nations whose choice of populist leaders has resulted in increasing or at best stagnant levels of corruption. But Heinrich also specifically calls out the populist pledges of President Trump, arguing that "the first signs of such a betrayal of his promises are already there. The talk is of rolling back key anti-corruption legislation and ignoring potential conflicts of interests that will exacerbate — not control — corruption."