Cronyism is a specific form of in-group favoritism, the spoils system practice of partiality in awarding jobs and other advantages to friends or trusted colleagues, especially in politics and between politicians and supportive organizations.[1] For example, cronyism occurs when appointing "cronies" to positions of authority regardless of their qualifications.[2] This is in contrast to a meritocracy, in which appointments are made based on merit. Politically, "cronyism" is derogatorily used to imply buying and selling favors, such as votes in legislative bodies, as doing favors to organizations, or giving desirable ambassadorships to exotic places.[3]


The word crony first appeared in 17th-century London, according to the Oxford English Dictionary and is believed to be derived from the Greek word χρόνιος (chronios), meaning 'long term'.[4]

A less likely but oft-quoted source is the supposed Irish term Comh-Roghna, which translates as 'close pals, mutual friends'.[citation needed]


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See also: Clientelism, Nepotism, and Political corruption

Government officials are particularly susceptible to accusations of cronyism, as they spend taxpayers' money. Many democratic governments are encouraged to practice administrative transparency in accounting and contracting, however, there often is no clear delineation of when an appointment to government office is "cronyism".[5]

In the private sector, cronyism exists in organizations, often termed "the old boys' club" or "the golden circle"; again, the boundary between cronyism and "networking" is difficult to delineate.[6]

It is not unusual for politicians to surround themselves with highly qualified subordinates, and to develop social, business, or political friendships leading to the appointment to office of friends, likewise in granting government contracts. In fact, the counsel of such friends is why the officeholder successfully obtained their powerful position; therefore, cronyism usually is easier to perceive than to demonstrate and prove.[citation needed][original research?][inconsistent] Politicians with representatives of business, other special interests, as unions and professional organizations get "crony-business" done in political agreements, especially by "reasonable" and lucrative honorariums to the politician for making speeches, or by legal donations to one's election campaign or to one's political party, etc.[citation needed][original research?]

Cronyism describes relationships existing among mutual acquaintances in private organizations where business, business information, and social interaction are exchanged among influential personnel. This is termed crony capitalism, and is an ethical breach of the principles of the market economy; in advanced economies, crony capitalism is a breach of market regulations.

Given crony capitalism's nature, these dishonest business practices are frequently (yet not exclusively) found in societies with ineffective legal systems. Consequently, there is an impetus upon the legislative branch of a government to ensure enforcement of the legal code capable of addressing and redressing private party manipulation of the economy by the involved businessmen and their government cronies.

The economic and social costs of cronyism are paid by society. Those costs are in the form of reduced business opportunity for the majority of the population, reduced competition in the market place, inflated consumer goods prices, decreased economic performance, inefficient business investment cycles, reduced motivation in affected organizations, and the diminution of economically productive activity.[6] A practical cost of cronyism manifests in the poor workmanship of public and private community projects.

Cronyism is self-perpetuating; cronyism then begets a culture of cronyism. This can only be apprehended by a comprehensive, effective, and enforced legal code, with empowered government agencies which can effect prosecutions in the courts.

Some instances[examples needed] of cronyism are readily transparent. With others,[examples needed] it is only in hindsight that the qualifications of the alleged "crony" must be evaluated. All appointments that are suspected of being cronyism are controversial. The appointed party may choose to either suppress disquiet or ignore it, depending upon the society's level of freedom of expression and individual personal liberty.


See also: Corruption in Russia and Corruption in Ukraine

See also: Kleptocracy § Examples

An example can be found in political activity in South Carolina, particularly in relation to Governor Henry McMaster, who initially gained his position after becoming the first high-level state official to endorse a President and subsequently rose from lieutenant governor to governor of the state when the President appointed the ambassador to the United Nations in November 2016.[7][8] On July 9, 2019, Governor McMaster would then go on to attempt to force a vote for the President of the University of South Carolina ahead of schedule and for the benefit of his favorite candidate, Robert Caslen Jr., former superintendent of West Point Academy who was favored by President and previously interviewed by the administration for the position of National Security Advisor.[9][10] Less than two weeks later, in spite of protestation from a majority of the student body, alumni, and major donors, the vote was cast in favor of Caslen on July 19, 2019.[11]

The Russian president Vladimir Putin is alleged to be the "head of the clan",[12] whose assets are estimated at $200 billion.[13][14] A list of Russian and Ukrainian politicians associated with "kleptocratic style" has been published by the Kleptocracy Archives project.[15]

U.S. president Donald Trump assigned at least five members of his private golf clubs to choice government jobs such as ambassadorships. This is the first time in modern history that a president of the United States has rewarded people with jobs that paid money to his own companies.[16]

The nominations of Prime Minister Boris Johnson for the House of Lords were selected based on their support for his version of Brexit, rather than ability or service to the public as is customary (for instance, the previous Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow did not receive a nomination due to Johnson's perception that he worked against him for getting key Brexit votes through).[17] The process for procurement of government contracts during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom has been criticised by some as a "chumocracy" (cronyism).[18][19][20]

India: High command culture

In India, it has been seen that the chiefs of national political parties directly appoint their close aides as the regional subordinates rather than through the party's internal elections—thus undermining the autonomy of the state units.[21] The culture was first seen under the premiership of Indira Gandhi,[21][22] then under her successor Sonia Gandhi,[23] and now under the Bharatiya Janata Party's Modi government.[24][25] Over the years, several chief ministers of wide range of parties have been appointed likewise.[26][27][28]

See also


  1. ^ "cronyism American English definition and synonyms - Macmillan Dictionary".
  2. ^ "the definition of cronyism".
  3. ^ Judy Nadler and Miriam Schulman. "Favoritism, Cronyism, and Nepotism". Santa Clara University. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  4. ^ "Oxford Dictionaries - Dictionary, Thesaurus, & Grammar". Archived from the original on July 18, 2012. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
  5. ^, official website of The Committee for Economic Development (CED), "Crony Capitalism: Unhealthy Relations Between Business and Government"
  6. ^ a b Staff (2010). "Do Old Boys' Clubs Make The Market More Efficient?". The Free Marketeers. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
  7. ^ Delreal, Jose (January 7, 2016). "Trump picks up endorsement from S.C. Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  8. ^ "Trump names Nikki Haley as UN ambassador". BBC. November 23, 2016. Retrieved July 9, 2016.
  9. ^ Lucy, Catherine (February 18, 2017). "Trump interviewing McMaster, West Point superintendent Caslen and others for security job". Military Times. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  10. ^ Daprile, Lucas (July 9, 2019). "McMaster forces vote on controversial USC presidential finalist while students are away". The State. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  11. ^ "Robert Caslen picked as new University of South Carolina president". WLTX19. 19 July 2019. Retrieved July 19, 2019.
  12. ^ Luke Harding (December 2010). "WikiLeaks cables condemn Russia as 'mafia state'". The Guardian.
  13. ^ "Putin's judo cronies put lock on billions in riches - The Sunday Times". Archived from the original on March 2, 2014.
  14. ^ Dawisha, Karen (2014). Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781476795195.
  15. ^ "Individuals – Kleptocracy Archive". Archived from the original on 2016-05-18. Retrieved 2016-05-22.
  16. ^ Schouten, Frank, et al
  17. ^ "Cronyism at work as Johnson packs the Lords | Letters". 3 August 2020.
  18. ^ Pogrund, Gabriel; Calver, Tom (15 November 2020). "Chumocracy first in line as ministers splash Covid cash". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  19. ^ Conn, David; Pegg, David; Evans, Rob; Garside, Juliette; Lawrence, Felicity (15 November 2020). "'Chumocracy': how Covid revealed the new shape of the Tory establishment". The Observer. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  20. ^ "Boris Johnson's profligacy problem". The Economist. 14 November 2020. Retrieved 14 November 2020.
  21. ^ a b Ghosh, Ambar Kumar. "The growing high command culture: A challenge for inner-party democracy in India". ORF. Retrieved 2021-11-05.
  22. ^ "How high command culture has undermined federalism". The News Minute. 2021-10-07. Retrieved 2021-11-05.
  23. ^ "The 'High Command' Culture Destroying Congress, Can Sonia Gandhi Really Become A Success Story? | Outlook India Magazine". Retrieved 2021-11-05.
  24. ^ "BJP must refrain from being a 'High Command' led Party". Times of India Blog. 2021-07-19. Retrieved 2021-11-05.
  25. ^ Venkataramakrishnan, Rohan (13 September 2021). "The Political Fix: Is Modi's High Command culture turning some BJP CMs into glorified bureaucrats?". Retrieved 2021-11-05.
  26. ^ "The high command: Triggering new lows for decades". Deccan Herald. 2021-08-08. Retrieved 2021-11-05.
  27. ^ "Frequent change of CMs in BJP-ruled states signs of growing high command culture". The New Indian Express. 11 September 2021. Retrieved 2021-11-05.
  28. ^ "Congress high command will decide on CM face for Karnataka, says Siddaramaiah". Hindustan Times. 2021-10-18. Retrieved 2021-11-05.

Further reading