Thursday 17 July 2008

Why we should pay bribes

I have a car. You are a pedestrian, and poor.

I knock you down.

The policeman runs in as fast as his pot-belly will allow. He offers to let me be if I give him a bribe. As a mark of his esteem for me, he’ll threaten you so that you don’t bother me about your broken kneecap. 

It doesn’t matter whose fault it was. I have the money. You don’t.

Bad? No, good.

By paying the bribe, I avoid journeys to the police station and the courts. And keep doing productive work. 

By being threatened, you admit that the game is not worth the compensation. You get neither money nor the satisfaction of seeing me punished for the harm you suffered (You’re sure it’s my fault). Had you cared enough, you’d have disregarded the policeman’s threats and allowed him to crack your other kneecap. Obviously, you’ve better things to do.

The policeman gave us a closure at a far lower cost, in terms of both time and money, than any utopian judicial process could have. 

Yes, lawyers and judges get less work, my competitors get more competition from me (because I’m at my desk rather than in a courtroom), and you stay as careless as ever (because you never realise that it was all your fault all along and just feel sorry for yourself). Many other things, that would have happened had the policeman and I been honest, don’t happen. 

On the other hand, think of the payment the policeman will make to the whore, and the whore to the grocer, and the grocer to the wholesaler, and the wholesaler to the farmer, and the farmer to the temple collection box… 

But let’s not complicate matters.

You’re horrible; I’m relieved; he’s happy.  

The existence of laws and morals is merely an excuse for the world to turn this little crisis into an economically productive activity. 

Multiply this a million times and you have the Third World.

So why do Westerners complain about corruption, especially when every bribe one pays keeps the cost of doing business in and with the Third World low? 

Just imagine how much it’d cost to run an efficient and fair show here, that values all users, including pitiable Third World blokes, in the same way. And where would that money come from other than more taxes, costlier raw materials and higher salaries? The entire benefit of our breeding like rabbits would disappear if we become honest.  

And I’m not being cynical. We need some recompense. 

I’m sure though that I’m being stupid. So what loss am I not counting?

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