PhD Pitch #4: Anti-Corruption, using only 1000 basic words


My dissertation project (on international efforts to fight corruption) in 5 questions & answers… but to make things interesting, I’ve used a text editor that limits you to the 1000 most-used English words. The idea is based on a comic by xkcd, and please check out “ten hundred words of science” for many great examples.

So, what is this thing about?

What do states do if they want to stop people who pay or accept money or presents although they should not? That is my question, and I look at many places in the world where states make plans with each other. In the end I want to explain why they decide the way they do.

Why should we care?

Twenty years ago, people from places with a lot of money were allowed to pay people in other places for things you should not be able to buy. No one knew for sure if that is good or bad. But today we agree that it is bad. Most people have less money because of it and do not trust each other in the end. Even for people with a lot of money it is bad because they would rather buy other things.

Why would someone look at what states want to do, and on what they agree when they talk to each other? I do this because it is very hard to look at what happens within states, and also because other people who want to find out about this kind of things have not done it enough.

What do we know already?

A very big state has talked to the others to make sure that no one pays money to people in other places for help that you should not buy, and now many states have agreed. They also want other things to be better, such as the way people who work for the state act. The idea is to make these things better in all the states that agree on the plan. Over time, more and more states agreed on more and more stuff.

A big help was that many people who do not work for states said this is important, and so did people like me who have the job to find out about such stuff. So ten years ago almost all states agreed on one big pack of things.

What do you add exactly?

We already know about this. But I want to add more on what exactly the states agree on! The question then is how we can explain why they do. The reason for the ways in which plans are different could be that states are just different or that they like some ideas more than others or that problems are different. Maybe groups of states are important or maybe the big states. Maybe one idea is very strong and states like it better than others.

I have different ideas about this with which I want to play.

So, what’s next?

Next I will look (for a very long time) at all the plans that the many states have made with each other. I will use a thing that I have put on my computer to do this. This will be hard and take a lot of time, but I hope it will be fun, too…

About Mathis Lohaus

Political scientist (postdoc) at Freie Universität Berlin. For more information please visit my website. I'm interested in international organizations, norm and policy diffusion, the politics of anti-corruption, and global IR / sociology of science. Always trying to learn new things.

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