What can be called a kleptocracy is a form of state power or a particular social arrangement. Kleptocracy is most prevalent in developing countries and collapsing countries whose economies depend on trade in natural resources. It means that corruption is not a characteristic feature of their regimes but rather the unchanging nature of their rule. Corruption is used to consolidate power, build political alliances, and eliminate opponents.
In kleptocracies, corrupt politicians enrich themselves secretly outside the rule of law through bribes and special favors, or they divert public funds to themselves and often export most of their profits to foreign countries in anticipation of losing power. Kleptocracy and kleptocratic rule are nothing new. Such power is found everywhere in history.
A special case of kleptocracy is Raubwirtschaft, which is German for “plunder economy” or “rapine economy,” where the entire state’s economy of a state is based on plundering and looting conquered territories. Such states either wage continuous war with their neighbors or milk their subjects as long as they have any taxable assets. A prime example of Raubwirtschaft was the Roman Empire. Modern research has defined the 21st-century kleptocracy as a global financial system based on money laundering. Globalization has created a golden age of money laundering is actually a pretty good fit for today’s kleptocratic dictators.
Example of a Kleptocratic government system
The most extreme and successful case of a kleptocratic takeover to date was carried out by the president of Azerbaijan, who has been governing his country since 2003. Created in 1949, the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) guarantee the European Convention on Human Rights and support the European Court of Human Rights. Until the end of the Cold War, only stable democracies could join these institutions. Azerbaijan, which was and remains an autocratic kleptocracy, was admitted to the Council of Europe in 2000, hoping that membership might transform its political culture.
The Council of Europe criticized Azerbaijan, but that did not prevent Baku from leading the institution in 2014. The president of the European Court of Human Rights came here, and a number of international conferences were held here, including one on the application of the European Charter of Human Rights. Many members of the Parliamentary Assembly, lawmakers in their own country, agreed with Baku that there were no human rights problems in this country. The kleptocratic takeover manipulated PACE by denying the existence of political prisoners and systematic election violations and entrenched an autocratic regime in the country.