What’s so bad about bribery?

Bribery Bad Side

With more than a trillion dollars being paid in bribes worldwide each year, it’s clear that corruption is a worldwide epidemic and it’s enough of a problem that legislation to combat it has become more common and much more robust.

It’s a technique used by many parents to get children to improve their grades, keep their rooms clean and cut the lawn. So what’s so bad about bribery? It’s not hurting anyone, right?

Apparently it is, judging by the volume of anti-corruption legislation on the books. Bribery always has a victim. Even in the most benign cases, someone loses. Bribed children become adults who go through life asking “what’s in it for me?” and miss out on some of life’s simple pleasures.

The Corruption Epidemic

With more than a trillion dollars being paid in bribes worldwide each year, it’s clear that corruption is a worldwide epidemic and it’s enough of a problem that legislation to combat it has become more common and much more robust. But attitudes toward bribery are slow to change and this may be partly because so many of us see it as a legitimate way of getting things done.

The deadline for the UK Bribery Act is fast approaching and companies all over the world with UK interests will be affected. The OECD Convention on Combating Bribery, the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act all forbid the paying and receiving of bribes, but nobody seems to be paying much attention. Canada, in particular, has been criticized recently by the OECD for weak anti-bribery policies and enforcement. In a world where corruption seems to be increasing at the same rate as the legislation designed to wipe it out, it’s hard to see a solution to a problem that so many don’t consider to be such a big a problem.

Unfortunately, bribery and corruption are seen as necessary evils by those who stand to gain from it, politicians sponsored by the corporate giants who are concerned only with short-term prosperity at the expense of long-term sustainability.

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The Cost of Corruption

Education, then, may be the key. Get people to understand the price corruption exacts on its victims. Show that the problem is not only that poor people are being made even poorer by a culture of bribery. Show how the people with more money can pay bigger bribes and get all the advantages and show how the poor lose out because the law is powerless in a corrupt system. Show how it affects real people in real life.

“Make no mistake, corruption is a drain on the public purse,” writes Barry Grossman, an Australian-Canadian investor in Indonesia, who has been a victim of corruption in a country renown for its culture of corruption. In comments on the FAIR website, he says, “It eradicates legal certainty and compromises every aspect of public administration. It hampers economic development and is a bulwark against social, political, economic and legal reform.  It makes rich people richer and poor people poorer. At its worst, it is used to put innocent people in prison and used to keep criminals out of prison. It is an essential mechanism in the destruction of our environment and it destroys the democratic process. Contrary to the arguments of some apologists, corruption is in no way a ‘cultural value’ or ‘essential’ to certain emerging economies any more than infanticide is an answer to overpopulation.”

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Article Published June 10, 2011

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