Worried that the current paradigm of political corruption (individual corruption: the misuse of public office for private gain) is too narrow to protect democratic institutions from private interests, the political theorist Dennis Thompson resurrects the premodern notion of institutional corruption, which refers to practices that undermine the purpose of political institutions. From the lenses of institutional corruption, practices such as money in political campaigns, lobbying, or wealth inequality are to be condemned and eradicated to protect democratic institutions. The goal of this paper is to provide reasons against resurrecting the notion of institutional corruption in the realm of policy for three main reasons. First, it is baseless: there is no empirical evidence that the sole presence of money alters democratic results. Second, it is unnecessary: individual corruption can be used to condemn and sanction illegal actions that undermine democratic decision making. And third, it is unclear whether policies against money in politics are beneficial or detrimental to electoral competition. In the light of empirical evidence, I conclude, we should not resurrect the unnecessary and potentially misleading idea of institutional corruption. Empirical studies, in fact, show that liberal electoral democracies, at least in developed countries, are more responsive to the voters’ will than Thompson believes.

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