I think you make excellent points, though sometimes I wonder if our relative lack of corruption is more a matter of inertia than it is systemic.
For example, for a couple of decades before he retired, my dad was a general contractor in the Detroit area. Now, as any contractor can tell you, the Detroit Building Department is relatively corrupt compared to surrounding municipalities. Detroit building inspectors can often be a lot more lenient about issuing permits or approving jobs if their palms are lightly greased.
The problem isn’t terrible, and people get caught from time to time, and then things straighten up for a while.
Like many builders, my dad employed a lot of Mexican labor. His primary foreman and right hand man immigrated from Mexico about 30 years ago. He was a brick mason there, and for him greasing municipal authorities was just a way of life. Sometimes when my dad would have problems with an inspector, Emilio would roll his eyes, and say, “Just pay the guy. Can’t you see his hand is out? What’s 200 bucks compared to a 3-week delay on this job? Don’t be a cheap bastard.”
But my dad would never pay, and he always eventually got his permits or approvals. I think what Emilio didn’t understand is that most Americans abhor corrupt government and won’t participate in it. What he saw as a necessary cost of doing business, my dad experienced as a moral impossibility. He didn’t object to paying $200, which was nothing compared to the price of delay. He just refused to be part of government corruption, like many Americans refuse. We’re brought up to believe like that.
The question is, what does it take to corrupt that system of belief?