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Cronyism probably comes from Greek khronios ("long-lasting") which has a sense of "old friend". But how is it connected with today's meaning?

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etymonline.com/index.php?term=crony agrees. But that is today's meaning, isn't it? Old friend => someone one does a favour for => someone one might employ ... –  Andrew Leach Feb 27 '13 at 13:44
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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Here we have etymology from etymonline.com:

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=cronyism+&searchmode=none

And from Wikipedia we also have this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cronyism

And you can fine some extensive definition here:

Cronyism is partiality to long-standing friends, especially by appointing them to positions of authority, regardless of their qualifications. Hence, cronyism is contrary in practice and principle to meritocracy. Cronyism exists when the appointer and the beneficiary are in social contact; often, the appointer is inadequate to hold his or her own job or position of authority, and for this reason the appointer appoints individuals who will not try to weaken him or her, or express views contrary to those of the appointer. Politically, "cronyism" is derogatorily used. The word "crony" first appeared in 18th century London, believed by many to be derived from the Greek word χρόνιος (chronios), meaning "long-term", however, crony appears in the 1811 edition of Grose's Vulgar Tongue with a decidedly non-collegiate definition, placing it firmly in the cant of the underworld. A less likely source is the Irish Language term Comh-Roghna (pron. ko-ronə), which translates to "close pals", or mutual friends. Governments are particularly susceptible to accusations of cronyism, as they spend public 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". It is not unusual for a politician to surround him- or herself 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 his or her powerful position — therefore, cronyism usually is easier to perceive than to demonstrate and prove. 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. Moreover, cronyism describes relationships existing among mutual acquaintances 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 societies, crony capitalism is a breach of market regulations, e.g. the Enron fraud is an extreme example of crony capitalism. Given crony capitalism's nature, these dishonest business practices are frequently (yet not exclusively) found in societies with ineffective legal systems. Resultantly, 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.

For more information you can see:

http://crony.askdefine.com/

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