The Rule of the Unprincipled, Unethical and Unqualified
(click here for abstract and image

Prof. Steven J. Lux
Executive Education Program
Maxwell School of Citizenship
Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 

If George Holmes Maxwell were alive today, he would be pleased to know the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs hosted Ronnie Amorado as part of the School’s inaugural class of Humphrey Fellows for 2009 – 2010. So much of Ronnie Amorado’s investigation into the theory that explains corruption and the practice that perpetuates it mirrors the founder’s concerns with American politics in the 1920s. That is, it is not enough to imagine technical responses to things like corruption. As Ronnie Amorado points in shocking detail in this book, when it comes to issues like corruption there is a perpetual arms race between reform initiatives that grow in sophistication against the corruption that likewise grows more insidious and clever. Given such dynamics, solutions to public problems require more complex thinking. We must ask what motivates people to behave as they do even when it seems shockingly obvious that the behavior is destroying the foundation of society around them. George Maxwell, before, and Ronnie Amorado, today, implore us to bring to our analysis the conceptions of good citizenship as a means of addressing problems in public affairs. 

When Ronnie Amorado first came to Syracuse, he may have expected too much from the Maxwell School. With the word “citizenship” deeply etched into the building’s stone facade for all to read, it is understandable to think that there should be a School imprimatur on the subject of citizenship. Indeed, George Maxwell’s first objective called for educating “intelligent patriots” by way of an institution dedicated to promoting “those principles, facts, and elements which, when combined, make up our rights and duties and our value and distinctiveness as US citizens.” In modern day America, however, the conceptions of citizenship are as complex as they are contested. When Ronnie Amorado entered our hallowed halls, he heard echoes of voices across the decades discussing, debating, and disagreeing about the fundamental understanding of citizenship and its worth. As such, before he could begin to conceptualize “citizenship as a countervailing force” to kakistocracy, Ronnie Amorado needed significant time just to make sense of the divergent views across the School and in the literature. Moreover, he also had to grapple with a debate about citizenship that is largely US-centric with little comparative perspective to other parts of the world. 

Ronnie Amorado’s contributions to academia and the practice of combatting corruption are significant. First, he sheds light in excruciating detail, often uncomfortable, about the actual workings of corruption. His definitions of various types and patterns that emerge provide no wiggle room for someone who would describe their actions in uncertain terms. And, as he details his accounts, he provides a window into the world of corruption that allows us to entertain practical solutions to the problem. In this sense, he is a prime example of the good within an epistemic community of networked professionals from around the globe that brings their knowledge to bear on resolving issues such as corruption.

When George Maxwell offered up his money to found the Maxwell School, his sights were clearly set on the United States. Some eighty years later, we are blessed to have someone like Ronnie Amorado, a Filipino citizen, share his knowledge with the Maxwell community and to take from us what he needs to be the intelligent international patriot. It was an honor and a pleasure to host Ronnie Amorado to the inaugural class of Humphrey Fellows attending the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. I can only hope that out of this exercise comes not only a book but a continued impact on institutions of higher learning in the Philippines to take on the question of citizenship, regardless of its complexity.