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Cronyism is partiality to long-standing friends, especially by appointing them to positions of authority, regardless of their qualifications. Hence, cronyism is contrary in practice and principle to meritocracy.

Cronyism exists when the appointer and the beneficiary are in social contact; often, the appointer is inadequate to hold his or her own job or position of authority, and for this reason the appointer appoints individuals who will not try to weaken him or her, or express views contrary to those of the appointer. Politically, "cronyism" is derogatorily used.[1]


The word "crony" first appeared in 18th century London, according to the Oxford English Dictionary to be derived from the Greek word chronios (χρόνιος), meaning "long-term".[2]

The word crony also appears in the 1811 edition of Grose's Vulgar Tongue with a decidedly non-collegiate definition, placing it firmly in the cant of the underworld.[3] Another oft-quoted source is the supposed Irish term Comh-Roghna [koˈronə], said to translate as "close pals", or mutual friends.[4] However, this term apparently originated with Daniel Cassidy (fabricator of many fake Irish terms) and is completely unknown in the Irish language. (See Ó Dónaill's Irish-English Dictionary p. 288, where the term is conspicuously absent).


Governments are particularly susceptible to accusations of cronyism, as they spend public money. Many democratic governments are encouraged to practice administrative transparency in accounting and contracting, however, there often is no clear delineation of when an appointment to government office is "cronyism".

It is not unusual for a politician to surround him- or herself with highly qualified subordinates, and to develop social, business, or political friendships leading to the appointment to office of friends, likewise in granting government contracts. In fact, the counsel of such friends is why the officeholder successfully obtained his or her powerful position – therefore, cronyism usually is easier to perceive than to demonstrate and prove. However, "The practice of favoritism based on relationships and connections - rather than someone who demonstrates top credentials and well-suited experience – ultimately results in vastly inferior government service to the public."[1]

In the private sector, cronyism exists in organizations, often termed "the old boys club" or "the golden circle", again the boundary between cronyism and "networking" is difficult to delineate.[5]

Moreover, cronyism describes relationships existing among mutual acquaintances in private organizations where business, business information, and social interaction are exchanged among influential personnel. This is termed crony capitalism, and is an ethical breach of the principles of the market economy; in advanced economies, crony capitalism is a breach of market regulations, e.g., the Enron fraud is an extreme example of crony capitalism.

Given crony capitalism's nature, these dishonest business practices are frequently (yet not exclusively) found in societies with ineffective legal systems. Consequently, there is an impetus upon the legislative branch of a government to ensure enforcement of the legal code capable of addressing and redressing private party manipulation of the economy by the involved businessmen and their government cronies.

The economic and social costs of cronyism are paid by society. Those costs are in the form of reduced business opportunity for the majority of the population, reduced competition in the market place, inflated consumer goods prices, decreased economic performance, inefficient business investment cycles, reduced motivation in affected organizations, and the diminution of economically productive activity.[5] A practical cost of cronyism manifests in the poor workmanship of public and private community projects. Cronyism is self-perpetuating; cronyism then begets a culture of cronyism. This can only be apprehended by a comprehensive, effective, and enforced legal code, with empowered government agencies which can effect prosecutions in the courts.

All appointments that are suspected of being cronyism are controversial. The appointed party may choose to either suppress disquiet or ignore it, depending upon the society's level of freedom of expression and individual personal liberty.

Some instances of cronyism are readily transparent. As to others, it is only in hindsight that the qualifications of the alleged "crony" must be evaluated.

Notable examples[edit]

Cronyism can exist anywhere, in both free and not-so-free states. In general, authoritarian and totalitarian regimes are more vulnerable to acts of cronyism simply because the officeholders are not accountable, and all office holders generally come from a similar background (e.g., all members of the ruling party). Some situations and examples include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Daniel Garza (March 12, 2012). "Government Cronyism is Back". Fox News. Retrieved 26 April 2012. 
  2. ^ Compact Oxford English Dictionary: Crony
  3. ^ "Crony: An intimate companion, a camrade; also a confederate in a robbery" - Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1785 [1811]. Grose
  4. ^ "Definition". Retrieved 26 April 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Staff (2010). "Do Old Boys’ Clubs Make The Market More Efficient?". The Free Marketeers. Retrieved 26 April 2012. 
  6. ^ The O'Reilly Factor Flash
  7. ^ Cronyism
  8. ^ Adam Bellow on Nepotism, Cronyism & Harriet Miers on National Review Online
  9. ^ BBC NEWS | Americas | Bush not ruling out Libby pardon
  10. ^ The Guardian - Wolfowitz under fire after partner receives promotion and pay rise
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Never Sleep Again! The Most Dangerous Facts About Bertie Ahern, Author William Penning
  14. ^ McDermott, Peter (14 December 2010). "Less dogma, more dialogue needed in economics". The Irish Echo (New York). OCLC 4988765.
  15. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  16. ^ Peterkin, Tom (20 December 2006). "Ahern 'signed blank cheques for Haughey'". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  17. ^ "Bertie Ahern resigns from Fianna Fáil". RTÉ News. 24 March 2012. 
  18. ^ "Ashcroft hopes for 'Lord of Belize'". BBC News. 1 April 2000. 
  19. ^ "Blair 'cronies honours list' under scrutiny in wake of cash-for-honours scandal". Daily Mail (London). 10 February 2007. 


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