Corruption and Bureaucratic Reforms: “Getting to Denmark”?

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In 2018, Denmark was the least corrupt country worldwide according to Transparency International. Such absence of corruption is an important ingredient in ‘Getting to Denmark’ and achieving well-functioning institutions. It is, however, a puzzle how a state can reach such a situation. Recent studies have suggested that critical junctures in the evolution of today’s levels of corruption can be traced through early and pragmatic bureaucratic reforms that efficiently fought corruption, thus preceding the onset of the modern welfare state. The question we raise is whether historical bureaucratic reforms can explain today’s low level of corruption in Denmark. We argue that the sum of eleven main bureaucratic reforms from 1660 to 1866 increased the costs of being corrupt among civil servants to an extent that exceeded their private benefits. Such historical lessons point to an ‘institutions matter’ model that may guide future anti-corruption efforts worldwide and probably lead to more social trust and socio-economic benefits.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Danish Politics
EditorsPeter Munk Christiansen, Jørgen Elklit, Peter Nedergaard
Place of publicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication date1 Jul 2020
ISBN (Print)9780198833598
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020


  • Corruption in Denmark
  • historical roots
  • bureaucratic reforms
  • Getting to Denmark


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