Cronyism

Cronyism

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Cronyism'
Start a new discussion about 'Cronyism'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Cronyism is partiality to long-standing friends, especially by appointing them to positions of authority, regardless of their qualifications. Hence, cronyism is contrary in practice and principle to meritocracy
Meritocracy
Meritocracy, in the first, most administrative sense, is a system of government or other administration wherein appointments and responsibilities are objectively assigned to individuals based upon their "merits", namely intelligence, credentials, and education, determined through evaluations or...

.

Cronyism exists when the appointer and the beneficiary are in social contact; often, the appointer is inadequate to hold his or her own job or position of authority, and for this reason the appointer appoints individuals who will not try to weaken him or her, or express views contrary to those of the appointer. Politically, "cronyism" is derogatorily used.

Etymology


The word "crony" first appeared in 18th century London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, according to the Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary , published by the Oxford University Press, is the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have been published under its current name, in 1928 and 1989. The first edition was published in twelve volumes , and...

 to be derived from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 word χρόνιος (chronios), meaning "long-term".

The word crony also appears in the 1811 edition of Grose's Vulgar Tongue with a decidedly non-collegiate definition, placing it firmly in the cant
Cant (language)
A Cant is the jargon or argot of a group, often implying its use to exclude or mislead people outside the group.-Derivation in Celtic linguistics:...

 of the underworld
Organized crime
Organized crime or criminal organizations are transnational, national, or local groupings of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals for the purpose of engaging in illegal activity, most commonly for monetary profit. Some criminal organizations, such as terrorist organizations, are...

. A less likely source is the Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 term Comh-Roghna koˈronə, which translates to "close pals", or mutual friends.

Concept


Governments are particularly susceptible to accusations of cronyism, as they spend public money. Many democratic governments are encouraged to practice administrative transparency
Transparency (humanities)
Transparency, as used in science, engineering, business, the humanities and in a social context more generally, implies openness, communication, and accountability. Transparency is operating in such a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are performed...

 in accounting and contracting, however, there often is no clear delineation of when an appointment to government office is "cronyism".

It is not unusual for a politician to surround him- or herself with highly-qualified subordinates, and to develop social, business, or political friendships leading to the appointment to office of friends, likewise in granting government contracts. In fact, the counsel of such friends is why the officeholder successfully obtained his or her powerful position — therefore, cronyism usually is easier to perceive than to demonstrate and prove.

In the private sector, cronyism exists in organizations, often termed 'the old boys club' or 'the golden circle', again the boundary between cronyism and 'networking' is difficult to delineate.

Moreover, cronyism describes relationships existing among mutual acquaintances in private organizations where business, business information, and social interaction are exchanged among influential personnel. This is termed crony capitalism
Crony capitalism
Crony capitalism is a term describing a capitalist economy in which success in business depends on close relationships between business people and government officials...

, and is an ethical breach of the principles of the market economy; in advanced economies, crony capitalism is a breach of market regulations, e.g., the Enron
Enron
Enron Corporation was an American energy, commodities, and services company based in Houston, Texas. Before its bankruptcy on December 2, 2001, Enron employed approximately 22,000 staff and was one of the world's leading electricity, natural gas, communications, and pulp and paper companies, with...

 fraud is an extreme example of crony capitalism.

Given crony capitalism's nature, these dishonest business practices are frequently (yet not exclusively) found in societies with ineffective legal systems. Resultantly, there is an impetus upon the legislative branch of a government to ensure enforcement of the legal code capable of addressing and redressing private party manipulation of the economy by the involved businessmen and their government cronies.

The economic and social costs of cronyism are paid by society. Those costs are in the form of reduced business opportunity for the majority of the population, reduced competition in the market place, inflated consumer goods prices, decreased economic performance, inefficient business investment cycles, reduced motivation in affected organizations, and the diminution of economically productive activity. A practical cost of cronyism manifests in the poor workmanship of public and private community projects. Cronyism is self-perpetuating; cronyism then begets a culture of cronyism. This can only be apprehended by a comprehensive, effective, and enforced legal code, with empowered government agencies which can effect prosecutions in the courts.

All appointments that are suspected of being cronyism are controversial. The appointed party may choose to either suppress disquiet or ignore it, depending upon the society's level of freedom of expression and individual personal liberty.

Some instances of cronyism are readily transparent. As to others, it is only in hindsight that the qualifications of the alleged "crony" must be evaluated.

Notable examples


Cronyism can exist anywhere, in both free and not-so-free states. In general, authoritarian and totalitarian regimes are more vulnerable to acts of cronyism simply because the officeholders are not accountable, and all office holders generally come from a similar background (e.g., all members of the ruling party ). Some situations and examples include:
  • George Washington
    George Washington
    George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

     was criticized for appointing Alexander Hamilton
    Alexander Hamilton
    Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury...

     as the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury after Hamilton had served as Washington's aide during the American Revolutionary War
    American Revolutionary War
    The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

    . Nonetheless, the contributions Hamilton made to stabilizing the currency
    Currency
    In economics, currency refers to a generally accepted medium of exchange. These are usually the coins and banknotes of a particular government, which comprise the physical aspects of a nation's money supply...

     and securing outside capital
    Capital (economics)
    In economics, capital, capital goods, or real capital refers to already-produced durable goods used in production of goods or services. The capital goods are not significantly consumed, though they may depreciate in the production process...

     for the fledgling democracy are well known. Referring to Hamilton's appointment as cronyism seems particularly disputable in retrospect, although it is only after looking at his accomplishments that this determination can be made.

  • Appointing cronies to positions can also be used to advance the agenda of the person making the appointment. And it can also spectacularly fail to do so. In medieval England
    England
    England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

    , King Henry II
    Henry II of England
    Henry II ruled as King of England , Count of Anjou, Count of Maine, Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Gascony, Count of Nantes, Lord of Ireland and, at various times, controlled parts of Wales, Scotland and western France. Henry, the great-grandson of William the Conqueror, was the...

     arranged the appointment of his good friend Thomas Becket
    Thomas Becket
    Thomas Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170. He is venerated as a saint and martyr by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion...

     to be Archbishop of Canterbury
    Archbishop of Canterbury
    The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

    . Henry believed that Becket would promote the king's agenda but was dismayed to see Becket adhere to his own conscience. Becket eventually excommunicated
    Excommunication
    Excommunication is a religious censure used to deprive, suspend or limit membership in a religious community. The word means putting [someone] out of communion. In some religions, excommunication includes spiritual condemnation of the member or group...

     the king and the king allegedly incited three knights to murder Becket in response.

  • Examples of cronyism can be found historically in a number of communist states. The cultural revolution
    Cultural Revolution
    The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

     in China was initially popular due to the perception that Mao Zedong
    Mao Zedong
    Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

     was ridding the state of a number of officials who had obtained their positions by dint of friendship with communist authorities. The nomenklatura
    Nomenklatura
    The nomenklatura were a category of people within the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries who held various key administrative positions in all spheres of those countries' activity: government, industry, agriculture, education, etc., whose positions were granted only with approval by the...

     system, which existed throughout the life of the Soviet state and came to prominence in the time of Leonid Brezhnev
    Leonid Brezhnev
    Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev  – 10 November 1982) was the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union , presiding over the country from 1964 until his death in 1982. His eighteen-year term as General Secretary was second only to that of Joseph Stalin in...

     is another notable example.

  • The business and labor community have also seen charges of cronyism. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt
    Theodore Roosevelt
    Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

     led an attack on the cronyism against the oil
    Petroleum
    Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

    , steel
    Steel
    Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

    , banking and other businesses that had conspired to set prices
    Price fixing
    Price fixing is an agreement between participants on the same side in a market to buy or sell a product, service, or commodity only at a fixed price, or maintain the market conditions such that the price is maintained at a given level by controlling supply and demand...

     by maintaining virtual monopolies through cronyism. Through interlocking directorates it was not uncommon to see various corporate boards share members among each other.

  • The Warren Harding administration has become a schoolbook case of cronyism. Harding appointed his old college friends as members of his cabinet, resulting in several scandals. The term Harding cabinet has become synonymous for rotten and corrupt administration.

  • One of the highest level cases of cronyism occurred during the Kennedy administration in the United States
    United States
    The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

    . Robert S. McNamara was appointed by President John F. Kennedy
    John F. Kennedy
    John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

     without any experience, a point that McNamara made clear in the 2003 documentary The Fog of War
    The Fog of War
    The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara is a 2003 American documentary film about the life and times of former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara as well as illustrating his observations of the nature of modern warfare...

    . McNamara's role in the disastrous Vietnam War
    Vietnam War
    The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

     was crucial and he is often considered "the architect of the Vietnam War
    Vietnam War
    The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

    ". Kennedy originally offered him a job as United States Secretary of Treasury and when McNamara admitted to having no experience he gave him Secretary of Defense. Even though McNamara confessed no experience in defense, Kennedy insisted he accept the position.

  • Former US President George W. Bush
    George W. Bush
    George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

     was accused of cronyism after the nomination of Harriet Miers
    Harriet Miers
    Harriet Ellan Miers is an American lawyer and former White House Counsel. In 2005, she was nominated by President George W. Bush to be an Associate Justice of the U.S...

     to the US Supreme Court
    Supreme Court of the United States
    The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

    . Miers had no previous judicial experience and demonstrated little knowledge of constitutional law, and her selection was rejected by many conservatives and liberals. The appointment of Michael D. Brown
    Michael D. Brown
    Michael DeWayne Brown was the first Undersecretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response , a division of the Department of Homeland Security . This position is generally referred to as the director or administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency . He was appointed in January 2003 by...

     to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency
    Federal Emergency Management Agency
    The Federal Emergency Management Agency is an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security, initially created by Presidential Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1978 and implemented by two Executive Orders...

     (FEMA) would also be considered a case of cronyism, as Brown had no experience pertaining to his job. The administration has also been accused of cronyism for reducing Scooter Libby's sentence in the Plame Affair
    Plame affair
    The Plame Affair involved the identification of Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert Central Intelligence Agency officer. Mrs. Wilson's relationship with the CIA was formerly classified information...

    .

  • Paul Wolfowitz
    Paul Wolfowitz
    Paul Dundes Wolfowitz is a former United States Ambassador to Indonesia, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, President of the World Bank, and former dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University...

     was mentioned in connection with cronyism after the World Bank
    World Bank
    The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries for capital programmes.The World Bank's official goal is the reduction of poverty...

     committee charged him with violation of ethical and governance rules as bank president by showing favoritism to his companion in 2005. The report noted that Mr Wolfowitz broke bank rules and the ethical obligations in his contract, and that he tried to hide the salary and promotion package awarded to Shaha Riza
    Shaha Riza
    Shaha Riza, , is a World Bank employee currently on external assignment at the Foundation for the Future, a "semi-independent foundation to promote democracy" in the Middle East and North Africa...

    , his companion and a bank employee, from top legal and ethics officials in the months after he became bank president in 2005.

See also


  • Nepotism
    Nepotism
    Nepotism is favoritism granted to relatives regardless of merit. The word nepotism is from the Latin word nepos, nepotis , from which modern Romanian nepot and Italian nipote, "nephew" or "grandchild" are also descended....

  • Meritocracy
    Meritocracy
    Meritocracy, in the first, most administrative sense, is a system of government or other administration wherein appointments and responsibilities are objectively assigned to individuals based upon their "merits", namely intelligence, credentials, and education, determined through evaluations or...

  • Oligarchy
    Oligarchy
    Oligarchy is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with an elite class distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, commercial, and/or military legitimacy...

  • Crony capitalism
    Crony capitalism
    Crony capitalism is a term describing a capitalist economy in which success in business depends on close relationships between business people and government officials...

  • Cartel
    Cartel
    A cartel is a formal agreement among competing firms. It is a formal organization of producers and manufacturers that agree to fix prices, marketing, and production. Cartels usually occur in an oligopolistic industry, where there is a small number of sellers and usually involve homogeneous products...

  • Collective narcissism
    Collective narcissism
    Collective narcissism is a type of narcissism where an individual has an inflated self-love of his or her own ingroup, where an “ingroup” is a group in which an individual is personally involved...


  • Ingroup bias
    Ingroup bias
    In-group–out-group bias, also called intergroup bias, refers to the phenomenon of in-group favoritism, a preference and affinity for one’s in-group over the out-group, or anyone viewed as outside the in-group. This can be expressed in evaluation of others, linking, allocation of resources and many...

  • Price fixing
    Price fixing
    Price fixing is an agreement between participants on the same side in a market to buy or sell a product, service, or commodity only at a fixed price, or maintain the market conditions such that the price is maintained at a given level by controlling supply and demand...

  • Political scandals in the United Kingdom
  • Cash for Honours
  • Political corruption
    Political corruption
    Political corruption is the use of legislated powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is not considered political corruption. Neither are illegal acts by...

  • Spoils system
    Spoils system
    In the politics of the United States, a spoil system is a practice where a political party, after winning an election, gives government jobs to its voters as a reward for working toward victory, and as an incentive to keep working for the party—as opposed to a system of awarding offices on the...



External links

  • SuperNews: Hurricane Katrina - A political flash cartoon about the cronyism surrounding Michael D. Brown
    Michael D. Brown
    Michael DeWayne Brown was the first Undersecretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response , a division of the Department of Homeland Security . This position is generally referred to as the director or administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency . He was appointed in January 2003 by...

     and Hurricane Katrina
    Hurricane Katrina
    Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was a powerful Atlantic hurricane. It is the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States. Among recorded Atlantic hurricanes, it was the sixth strongest overall...

    .
  • Cronies - Robert Bryce's 2004 book, "Cronies: Oil, The Bushes, And The Rise of Texas, America's Superstate"