Tuesday, Transparency International published its 2009 ranking of the world's most and least corrupt countries. Afghanistan, whose corruption has been center-stage in debates over strategy  tumbled three places to clock in just above Somalia as the world's most corrupt country. But the 189-country ranking has some bloggers wondering how useful such an index really is. Here's what we can learn from the geography of corruption:

  • Thank God For Somalia!  At Democracy Arsenal, Michael Cohen says it doesn't mean much that Somalia beat out Afghanistan for first on the list. "I see that Afghanistan just beat out Somalia as the most corrupt country in the world (by the way, this is two points worse than last year). This sort of reminds me of the old joke about Alabama's state motto - 'Thank God for Mississippi.'"
  • The World's Least Corrupt Countries Are Boring  As The Economist makes its predictions for 2010's "best country" of the world, it isn't sure "perceived corruption" should really be an indicator. After all, the Transparency International's "least corrupt" countries are, in the words of The Economist, "boring."
Maybe the honour should go to the nation that embodies the most admirable values—the sort of country that scores best in rankings such as Transparency International's just-released Corruption Perceptions Index 2009. That would point to countries like New Zealand and Denmark.

[...]If those seem too dull, maybe there's scope for a surprise winner in 2010. Before the Berlin Wall came down and communism collapsed across central Europe, few would have imagined that Czechoslovakia might be a candidate for the best country of 1989. Yet after its Velvet Revolution, it surely was. Might some unlikely country—Myanmar, say—surprise the world in similar fashion in 2010?
  • These Indexes Are Biased and Eurocentric   Douglas Muir of Fistful of Euros is skeptical. "What’s interesting is how almost all of these indexes, good and crappy alike, follow the same general pattern: First World countries filling up the top ranks, former colonies — especially in Africa — at the bottom." Muir thinks he knows the secret formula behind such rankings. "I bet you could generate a very plausible looking index with just a handful of simple rules," he writes. "Negative numbers are depressing, so everybody starts with 20 points:"
+10 If you are in Europe
+6 If you are in North (not Central) America
-10 If you are in Africa
-3 if you touch the Equator
+3 if you are largely north or south of 45 degrees latitude
+1 more if you are entirely so
+1 if you are a small (<100,000 square km) country
+1 more if you are tiny (<5,000 square km)
-5 if you are landlocked
+2 if your country existed 50 years ago
+5 if you are a former colony populated mostly by people of European descent
-1 if you’re mostly Muslim
  • No Surprises Here  Charles Lemos of the MyDD blog summed it up: "Rounding out the top ten least corrupt are Finland, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Iceland and Norway. The most corrupt states were a mix of African and Central Asian dictatorships, failed states and oil-dependent states."