I HAVE LONG tried to find a proper international survey on which business sectors across the world have the least government involvement and which the most, and my quest has finally been satisfied by Transparency International. The attached table sets out the scores on a scale of zero to 10, with zero representing full public sector involvement and 10 representing no public sector involvement at all. Thank you, Transparency International, a job well done. Ahem ... yes, it was not quite what Transparency International had in mind with its survey. This Berlin-based watchdog of corruption had actually set out to measure how much bribery there was in different business sectors, with zero representing the most prone to bribery and 10 the least. Well, what a coincidence, two birds with one stone. I shall grant you that in some ways the survey does not entirely seem to fit but this is mostly because it measures direct or government involvement alone. Agriculture is heavily subsidised around the world and would have a lower score except that government very rarely owns farms directly. Equally, however, if bribery is taken to include bribery of voters rather than just direct bribery, agriculture would also merit a low number on the bribery index. No matter how you cut it, public sector involvement and the level of bribery are still a close match in this survey. And this gives you a Jake Golden Rule: Corruption is a public sector phenomenon. There is also a corollary: Corruption measured by dollar value exists in direct proportion to government involvement and corruption measured by number of cases exists in inverse proportion to wealth. The wealth rule refers to the fact that if you are, for instance, setting up an office in Indonesia and have been given a quote for installation of telephones, you will have to pay something extra to the people who actually install the phones. In poor societies, working people must look for a little extra if they are to make ends meet. You may, however, classify this less as corruption than as free enterprise creating labour markets where they are not officially sanctioned. It does not produce much economic damage. The other sort of corruption certainly does. I bring it up today because of an opinion piece published in this newspaper on Thursday, 'The economics of corruption' by Hu Shuli, editor in chief of the mainland business magazine, Caijing. Mr Hu laments corruption in China, makes a distinction between supply-driven and demand-driven corruption (a distinction of academic interest alone) and then devotes the rest of his thoughts to saying that something should be done about corruption. I sympathise with his frustration. Nothing fosters corruption quite as a command economy does. Here is another Golden Rule: When A gets a good price from B on C's credit (the usual arrangement in a command economy), A shows his gratitude to B with a payment of which C does not hear. Tea money it is called and that would be fine except that so often it could buy several million cups of tea. But it is inevitable. A truly private sector business such as light manufacturing (see table) has no room for corruption. Profit margins are much too thin. It is why you do not often hear the word 'cost is no object' in the private sector. You hear enough in the public sector, however. Taxpayers have no choice on whether to part with tax payments and waste is a common result. The simple fact is that corruption blooms only when it is given fertile ground. The fault lies with the system more than the people under that system. And that gives me two thoughts for Mr Hu. First, there is a silver lining to this cloud. When money is taken out of the public sector through corruption, it can only be put back to work in the private sector and then the use of this money becomes efficient. Along with the waste of exhibition centres and airports built where there is little use for them, you get productive industries funded by the bribes involved. Second, be content to make general statements about the need to do something, sir. Advocating the specific answer to corruption, the radical one that offers the only real solution, could land you in jail for sedition.