cor·rup·tion noun \kə-ˈrəp-shən\
a : impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle : depravity
b : decay, decomposition
c : inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means (as bribery)
d : a departure from the original or from what is pure or correct
This is a word most of us are familiar with, and when applied to government or the ruling class of a country or state, it refers to the deviation of public funds for private enrichment, as well as the acceptance of bribes or generally speaking, forgetting about the greater good for personal gain.
It has always been a huge problem in human societies because, like it or not, we are many times driven by greed. It is not a good basis to function on, and it shows.
Is it possible to measure corruption? Well, with some surveys and studies, people certainly have tried. The folks at Transparency International compiled all the results into a simple graphical media where we can appreciate the severity of the problem, the Corruption Perceptions Index 2010 Results.
The countries are given a rating from 0 to 10, with lower numbers indicating more corruption and higher numbers indicating more transparency, based on several surveys conducted (at least 3 or 4, with as many as 10 for some).
Some parts of the world are no surprise when you think of it, but there are others that might open your eyes. For me, the biggest surprises were Singapore, which is surrounded by highly corrupt nations, standing at the very top of the chart with a score of 9.3, equaling New Zealand and Denmark. On the lower side of the scale I wasn't really surprised by any particular country, but more by the sheer amount of them. 62% of the world countries have a corruption index below 4.0, which is really, really worrying; and we're talking about total numbers, not total population, since many of the most populated countries fall in this category too - China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, and most of Africa with the exception of some southern countries - but also some developed countries like Italy, the third largest economy in Europe, and economy struck Greece.
It is a worrying picture.
Check out the interactive map and other infographics at their website here.