Robert Klitgaard on culture, education, and More Like Us

I have often thought of Robert Klitgaard's book Tropical Gangsters when living in or reporting on countries where structural corruption seems like an unavoidable and unchangeable condition of life. The book is a darkly comic, Evelyn-Waugh-as-economic-advisor account of Klitgaard's experience on World Bank project in Equitorial Guinea, often described as "the worst country in the world." I was living in Japan at the time, which was still on the way up, but also traveling in countries like the Philippines and Indonesia -- whose contrast with Japan raised obvious questions about the relative roles of policy, and of culture, in national improvement or deterioriation.

One result of this on my end was an article about the Philippines called "A Damaged Culture,"

which made me about the most vilified person in the country for several years and which keeps coming up in newspaper references there. The other was a book about America's competition with Japan, called More Like Us, which argued that America's main hope was to be as little like Japan as possible. (A subsequent book, Looking at the Sun, explained why Japan's system was so effective -- for Japan, and for many of its neighbors.)

Robert Klitgaard has recently become the president of the Claremont Graduate Schools, in Southern California. Last month he gave a convocation address called "More Like Us" that applied some of his long-standing cultural analysis to the role of the university. Interesting and worth reading.