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We in America always insist on corruption as both immoral and an impediment to commercial development, but we tend to forget how exceptional this attitude is relative to both history and geography. The rule of written law over custom, family, and executive expediency is largely an idea formed — and remaining a nearly exclusive domain — of the Northern European Enlightenment, where it played no small part in the inception of the Industrial Revolution. Elsewhere, and through most of human history, corruption was and is the rule rather than the exception.

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