corruption, government


The exchanges at the symposium and these Articles highlight the gap between public opinion and legal culture on the definition of corruption and the problems that flow from that gap. Teachout’s and Lessig’s legal argument that corruption can be institutional and banal roughly corresponds with the public’s moral intuition. Conversely, Lessig’s and Hasen’s intuitive moral reaction—that corruption is the evil of quid pro quo—maps onto the legal conclusion of the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC that corruption is narrowly defined as quid pro quo. Note the reversal of moral and legal positions: Teachout and Lessig’s legal argument tracks the public’s moral sensibilities, while Lessig’s moral intuition tracks the Supreme Court’s formalism. Legal culture certainly values precise line drawing and formalism. Does that formalism also narrow our moral intuitions? Does it make us more tolerant of institutional corruption?