The question of how Denmark got to be Denmark: establishing rule of law and fighting corruption in the state of Denmark 1660 – 1900

This article shows how fighting corruption and establishing rule of law has been on the agenda of the Danish
rule for more than 350 years and how the level of corruption in the administration of state came to be limited by
the middle of the 19th century. The article argues that fighting corruption in an attempt to consolidate the rule
has been an integral part of the process of state building in Denmark since the establishment of the absolute
monarchy in 1660. The institutional framework set up at this point along with continuing reforms to improve the
administration in the period of absolutism between 1660 and 1849 came to form an important basis for an
administrative culture based on the rule of law which came to minimize corruption. The building of the absolute
monarchial state power came to be ensured through the establishment of a strong and comprehensive state
hierarchy with a king at the top level who set out to guarantee the rule of law and attempted to be merciful to his
subjects. The king was not only head of state but also the secular leader of the Lutheran state church, and
Lutheran-based values and institutions were reinforced in the governance of the country. These elements in
combination with the establishment of an increasingly Weberian bureaucracy after 1660 helped to curb
corruption in the Danish administration of state, and this is likely to have played a key role in establishing
Denmark’s present high level of quality of government and global position as a best performer in terms of
fighting corruption.

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