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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 personal gain.

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  • The more corrupt a society, the more numerous its laws.
    • Edward Abbey, A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (Vox Clamantis in Deserto) (1990).
  • Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.


  • He that accuses all mankind of corruption ought to remember that he is sure to convict only one
    • Edmund Burke, In letter to the to the Sheriffs of Bristol, (4 April 1777)


  • Corruption exists because there is too much, not too little, market.
  • History shows that, at earlier stages of economic development, corruption is difficult to control. The fact that today no country that is very poor is very clean suggests that a country has to rise above absolute poverty before it can significantly reduce venality in the system.
    • Ha-Joon Chang, in Bad Samaritans (2008), Ch. 8: Zaire vs Indonesia, Should we turn our backs on corrupt and undemocratic countries?, Prosperity and honesty, p. 151
  • * * thieves at home must hang; but he that puts
    Into his overgorged and bloated purse
    The wealth of Indian provinces, escapes.


  • But Jehovah looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see whether anyone has insight, whether anyone is seeking Jehovah. They have all turned aside; they are all alike corrupt. No one is doing good, not even one.
  • While Washington consistently wields as weapons political abstractions such as transparency, corruption, and freedom, it is unwilling to apply to itself those same cornerstones of America’s collective self-conception. Hypocrisy is perhaps not strong enough a word.


  • Corruption is a tree, whose branches are
    Of an immeasurable length: they spread
    Ev'rywhere; and the dew that drops from thence
    Hath infected some chairs and stools of authority.
    • John Fletcher, The Honest Man's Fortune (1613; published 1647), Act III, scene 3.


  • Corrupted freemen are the worst of slaves.
  • When rogues like these (a sparrow cries)
    To honours and employments rise,
    I court no favor, ask no place,
    For such preferment is disgrace.
    • John Gay, Fables (1727), Part II. Fable 2.


  • How the faithful city
has become a whore! ...
Everyone loves a bribe
and runs after gifts.
They do not defend the orphan,
and the widow’s cause does not come before them.


  • In the developing world, corruption is public enemy number one.
    Every dollar that a corrupt official or a corrupt business person puts in their pocket is a dollar stolen from a pregnant woman who needs health care; or from a girl or a boy who deserves an education; or from communities that need water, roads, and schools. Every dollar is critical if we are to reach our goals to end extreme poverty by 2030 and to boost shared prosperity.


  • Then there is a very small remnant, Adeimantus, I said, of worthy disciples of philosophy. ... Those who belong to this small class have tasted how sweet and blessed a possession philosophy is, and have also seen and been satisfied of the madness of the multitude, and known that there is no one who ever acts honestly in the administration of States, nor any helper who will save any one who maintains the cause of the just. Such a savior would be like a man who has fallen among wild beasts—unable to join in the wickedness of his fellows, neither would he be able alone to resist all their fierce natures, and therefore he would be of no use to the State or to his friends, and would have to throw away his life before he had done any good to himself or others. And he reflects upon all this, and holds his peace, and does his own business. He is like one who retires under the shelter of a wall in the storm of dust and sleet which the driving wind hurries along; and when he sees the rest of mankind full of wickedness, he is content if only he can live his own life and be pure from evil or unrighteousness, and depart in peace and good will, with bright hopes.
  • None of the governments, as they now exist, is worthy of the philosophic nature, and hence we see that nature warped and corrupted; just as a foreign seed, when sown in an alien soil, generally loses its native quality, and tends to be subdued and pass into the plant of the country, even so this philosophic nature, so far from preserving its distinctive power, now suffers a decline and takes on a different character.
  • At length corruption, like a general flood
    (So long by watchful ministers withstood),
    Shall deluge all; and avarice, creeping on,
    Spread like a low-born mist, and blot the sun.


  • Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges.
    • Translation: The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the government.
    • Variant: The more corrupt the state, the more laws.
    • Original Quote: And now bills were passed, not only for national objects but for individual cases, and laws were most numerous when the commonwealth was most corrupt.
    • Tacitus, Book III,27. Annals (117)

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 140.
  • Spiritalis enim virtus sacramenti ita est ut lux: etsi per immundos transeat, non inquinatur.
    • The spiritual virtue of a sacrament is like light: although it passes among the impure, it is not polluted.
    • Augustine of Hippo, Works, Volume III. In Johannis Evang. Cap. I. Tr. V. Section XV.
  • 'Tis the most certain sign, the world's accurst
    That the best things corrupted, are the worst;
    'Twas the corrupted Light of knowledge, hurl'd
    Sin, Death, and Ignorance o'er all the world;
    That Sun like this (from which our sight we have)
    Gaz'd on too long, resumes the light he gave.
  • I know, when they prove bad, they are a sort of the vilest creatures: yet still the same reason gives it: for, Optima corrupta pessima: the best things corrupted become the worst.
    • Owen Feltham, Resolves, XXX. Of Woman, p. 70. Pickering's Reprint of Fourth Ed. (1631).
  • So true is that old saying, Corruptio optimi pessima.
    • Samuel Purchas, Pilgrimage, To the Reader; of religion. Saying may be traced to Thomas Aquinas, Prim. Soc., Art. I. 5. Aristotle, Eth. Nic., VIII. 10. 12. Eusebius, Demon. Evang. I, IV, Chapter XII, St. Gregory, Moralia on Job.
  • The men with the muck-rake are often indispensable to the well-being of society, but only if they know when to stop raking the muck.
    • Theodore Roosevelt, address at the Corner-stone laying of the Office Building of House of Representatives (April 14, 1906).
  • Communism is the corruption of a dream of justice.

See also[edit]

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