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In philosophical, theological, or moral discussions, corruption is spiritual or moral impurity or deviation from an ideal. Corruption may include many activities including bribery and embezzlement. Government, or 'political', corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity for his or her own personal gain.
This article deals with the commonplace use of the term corruption to mean dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power.
The word corrupt (Middle English, from Latin corruptus, past participle of corrumpere, to abuse or destroy : com-, intensive pref. and rumpere, to break) when used as an adjective literally means "utterly broken".
Corruption can occur on many different scales. There is corruption that occurs as small favours between a small number of people (petty corruption), while there is the corruption that affects the government on a large scale (grand corruption), and corruption that is so prevalent that it is part of the every day structure of society (systemic corruption).
"Petty" corruption occurs at a smaller scale and occurs within established social frameworks and governing norms. Examples include the exchange of small improper gifts or use of personal connections to obtain favors. This form of corruption is particularly common in developing countries and where public servants are significantly underpaid.
"Grand" corruption is defined as corruption occurring at the highest levels of government in a way that requires significant subversion of the political, legal and economic systems. Such corruption is commonly found in countries with authoritarian or dictatorial governments and in those without adequate policing of corruption by anti-corruption agencies.
The government system in many countries is divided into the Legislative, Executive and Judiciary branches in an attempt to provide independent services that are less prone to corruption due to their independence.
Systemic corruption (or endemic corruption) is corruption which is primarily due to the weaknesses of an organization or process. It can be contrasted with individual officials or agents who act corruptly within the system.
Factors which encourage systemic corruption include conflicting incentives, discretionary powers; monopolistic powers; lack of transparency; low pay; and a culture of impunity. Specific acts of corruption include "bribery, extortion, and embezzlement" in a system where "corruption becomes the rule rather than the exception." Scholars distinguish between centralized and decentralized systemic corruption, depending on which level of state or government corruption takes place; in countries such as the Post-Soviet states both types occur.
Corruption can occur in many different economic sectors, whether it be public or private industry or even NGOs.
Public sector corruption is one of the more dangerous forms of corruption as corruption of the governing body can lead to widespread effects. Recent research by the World Bank suggests that who makes policy decisions (elected officials or bureaucrats) can be critical in determining the level of corruption because of the incentives different policy-makers face 
Political corruption is the abuse of public power, office, or resources by elected government officials for personal gain, e.g. by extortion, soliciting or offering bribes It can also take the form of office holders maintaining themselves in office by purchasing votes by enacting laws which use taxpayers' money.
Police corruption is a specific form of police misconduct designed to obtain financial benefits, other personal gain, and/or career advancement for a police officer or officers in exchange for not pursuing, or selectively pursuing, an investigation or arrest. One common form of police corruption is soliciting and/or accepting bribes in exchange for not reporting organized drug or prostitution rings or other illegal activities. Another example is police officers flouting the police code of conduct in order to secure convictions of suspects — for example, through the use of falsified evidence. More rarely, police officers may deliberately and systematically participate in organized crime themselves. In most major cities, there are internal affairs sections to investigate suspected police corruption or misconduct. Similar entities include the British Independent Police Complaints Commission.
Judicial Corruption refers to corruption related misconduct of judges, through receiving or giving bribes, improper sentencing of convicted criminals, bias in the hearing and judgement of arguments and other such misconduct.
Governmental corruption of judiciary is broadly known in many transitional and developing countries because the budget is almost completely controlled by the executive. The latter undermines the separation of powers, as it creates a critical financial dependence of the judiciary. The proper national wealth distribution including the government spending on the judiciary is subject of the constitutional economics.
It is important to distinguish between the two methods of corruption of the judiciary: the government (through budget planning and various privileges), and the private.
As corporations and business entities grow larger, sometimes with a monetary turnover many times that of small countries, the threat of corruption in the business world, within the organization, in dealings with other organisations and in dealings with the government is a looming and growing threat.
Companies may indulge in political corruption.
Labour unions were formed to protect and further the rights of employees via collective bargaining. However, as with other entities, corruption has been known to happen within the organizations. In addition, some unions have been infiltrated by, or associated with organized crime syndicates.
NGOs and other non-profit organizations are not immune to corruption and may be linked to political corruption.
Corruption occurs through myriad methods. The use of both positive and negative inducements to encourage the misuse of power is well known. In addition, favouring of friends, relatives and cronies in a way that is not directly beneficial to the corrupt individual is a form of corruption. In systemic corruption and grand corruption, multiple methods of corruption are used concurrently with similar aims.
Bribery is the improper use of gifts and favours in exchange for personal gain. This is also known as kickbacks or, in the Middle East, baksheesh. It is the most common form of corruption. The types of favours given are diverse and include money, gifts, sexual favours, company shares, entertainment, employment and political benefits. The personal gain that is given can be anything from actively giving preferential treatment to having an indiscretion or crime overlooked.
Bribery can sometimes be part of a the systemic use of corruption for other ends, for example to perpetrate further corruption. Bribery can make officials more susceptible to blackmail or extortion.
Embezzlement and theft involve someone with access to funds or assets illegally taking control of them. Fraud involves using deception to convince the owner of funds or assets to give them up to an unauthorized party.
Examples include the misdirection of company funds into "shadow companies" (and then into the pockets of corrupt employees), the skimming of foreign aid money, scams and other corrupt activity.
While bribery is the use of positive inducements for corrupt aims, extortion and blackmail centre around the use of threats. This can be the threat of violence or false imprisonment as well as exposure of an individual's secrets or prior crimes.
This includes such behaviour as an influential person threatening to go to the media if they do not receive speedy medical treatment (at the expense of other patients), threatening a public official with exposure of their secrets if they do not vote in a particular manner, or demanding money in exchange for continued secrecy.
Abuse of discretion refers to the misuse of one's powers and decision-making facilities. Examples include a judge improperly dismissing a criminal case or a customs official using their discretion to allow a banned substance through a port.
Favouritism, nepotism and clientelism involve the favouring of not the perpetrator of corruption but someone related to them, such as a friend, family member or member of an association. Examples would include hiring a family member to a role they are not qualified for or promoting a staff member who belongs to the same political party as you, regardless of merit.
Some states do not forbid these forms of corruption.
This is the use of contributions to political parties to secure illicit power, not because one favours their policies. An example would be tobacco or alcohol companies funding major political parties as a means of influencing the policing of their industry.
It can be difficult to differentiate between proper and improper use of political contributions.
Though corruption is often viewed as illegal, there is an evolving concept of legal corruption, as developed by Daniel Kaufmann and Pedro Vicente. It might be termed as processes which are legal (that is, specifically permitted, or at least not proscribed by law), but which are aimed at private gain (or the gain of narrow self interests) rather than benefitting all.
Frequently in philosophical discussions, corruption takes the form of contrasting a pure spiritual form with a corrupted manifestation in the physical world. Many philosophers, in fact, have regarded the physical world as inevitably corrupt (Plato being the most famous example of this school of thought). The Book of Genesis 6:12 similarly describes a world before the flood where 'everyone on earth was corrupt' (NLT).
Another philosophical use of the term "corruption" is in opposition to "generation," as in Aristotle's book On Generation and Corruption also known as On Coming to Be and Passing Away. In this sense, corruption is the process of ceasing to exist and is closely related to the concept of dying given certain views about the nature of living things. In a moral sense, corruption generally refers to decadence or hedonism. In theological or political debates, certain viewpoints are sometimes accused of being corruptions of orthodox systems of belief, which is to say, they are accused of having deviated from some older correct view.