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Kleptocracy (sometimes Cleptocracy) (root: Klepto+cracy = rule by thieves) is a pejorative, informal term for a government that is corrupt in its management of public funds in the sense that its management is designed to primarily sustain the personal wealth and political power of government officials and their cronies (collectively, kleptocrats).
Kleptocracies are often dictatorships or some other form of autocratic government, or lapsed democracies that have transformed into oligarchies, since democracy makes outright thievery for direct personal gain more difficult to sustain in the long term and still remain in power. Some kleptocracies are a reponse to jingoism, and frequent bullying in the government place itself.
Kleptocratic governance means that the economy is subordinated to the interests of the kleptocrats. Distributive states that derive their wealth from the extraction of natural resources (e.g. diamonds and oil in a few prominent cases) can be particularly prone to kleptocracy. Redistributive economies that derive their wealth through taxation of their population have a natural limitation on how far they can extend the kleptocratic policies on their population without destabilizing their government through extending their grab to their own supporters or driving the income producers away from the country or making them withdraw their labor or capital.
The creation of a kleptocracy powered by dictatorship typically results in many years of general hardship and suffering for the vast majority of citizens as civil society and the rule of law disintegrate. In addition, kleptocrats routinely ignore economic and social problems in their quest to amass ever more wealth and power.
The classic case of kleptocracy – in this sense – often given, is the regime of Marshall Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled the Democratic Republic of the Congo (which he renamed Zaire) from 1965 to 1997. It is said that usage of the term kleptocracy gained popularity largely to respond to a need to accurately describe Mobutu's regime.
Some observers use the term 'kleptocracy' to disparage political processes which permit corporations to influence political policy. Ralph Nader called the United States a kleptocracy in this sense of the word during the 2000 presidential campaign. A more accurate term for this influence over a state is plutocracy.
The protection society has against kleptocracy is largely dependent on the provisions within the law to protect property rights and the adherance to the rule of law within that society as a dominant power over the will of politicians. These protections are usually found within a constitution or a bill of rights and are also found in the United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 17. The imposition of a government on property rights may not be limited to taxation, licenses, and eminent domain and may extend to outright nationalization of privately held property if left unchecked by the rule of law.
 Transparency International ranking
In order of amount allegedly stolen (in USD), they are:
- former Indonesian President Suharto ($15 billion – $35 billion)
- former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos ($5 billion – $10 billion)
- former Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko ($5 billion)
- former Nigerian President Sani Abacha ($2 billion – $5 billion)
- former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević ($1 billion)
- former Haitian President Jean-Claude Duvalier ($300 million – $800 million)
- former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori ($600 million)
- former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko ($114 million – $200 million)
- former Nicaraguan President Arnoldo Alemán ($100 million)
- former Philippine President Joseph Estrada ($78 million – $80 million)
 Kleptocracy in fiction
In fiction, kleptocracy has sometimes been portrayed as an actual part of the government or an important city guild, such as in Fritz Leiber's "Ill Met in Lankhmar" and Terry Pratchett's Discworld series.
 See also
- Political corruption
- Failed state
- Iron Law of Oligarchy
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