But our sense of self is a skewed one. We may be incorruptible at home, but when dealing with Johnny Foreigner all bets are off. The moral transgressor is the receiver of bribes, not the payer. It’s Johnny’s fault, of course; we can’t expect the same standards from a foreigner.
There was even a time, a quite recent time, when such bribes paid to Johnny Foreigner were tax deductible on the company P&L.
I\’ve even had the quite open conversation with an Inland Revenue man (as was then) as to what was an acceptable amount for me to claim as \”unreceipted expenses\” as business expenses while working in Moscow. The response was along the lines of \”well, yes, we understand that things are a little different there, there are a lot of things that you just can\’t get a receipt for. $200 a day would be about right we think.\”
But I would go much further about how and why bribery takes hold and the most important thing we ought to be doing at home to make sure that it doesn\’t. It\’s about the amount and detail of regulation.
There was a day when there was little detailed law in the UK. Little detailed regulation of the everyday that is. What law there was was either criminal law which (with some grating errors, like the criminalisation of consenting adult buggery and such) almost all supported or Common Law which again almost all supported. Other countries were not so lucky: they had the imposition from the centre of detailed laws, rules and regulation about what you could or could not do in matters of daily life. Perhaps my favourite example is the one that until after WWII you had to have the permission of Paris for a club which had any more than 25 Frenchmen in it. Yes, for anything, sports, debates, cookery, anything. We in England had been free of such since the 1650-1700 timescale.
So there was no point in bribery here in the everyday while in other societies it was not possible to do anything without it.
Yes, I\’ve lived and worked in a society where bribery is commonplace and yes, I\’ve done my fair share of it. From $100 to get a falsely accused driver out of a police cell through a few hundred to smooth over an expired visa all the way to handing over wedges of cash in \”commissions to agents\”. That\’s just the way certain places are (although I would note that all such were entirely legal under UK law when I was partaking of such activities).
What worries me about the UK, a country in which I\’ve never even considered paying a douceur for anything, not even an \”advance tip\” to book a restaurant table, is that now we\’re moving to that more Continental system of law, where everything is regulated, from what light bulbs you can use to how you can sort your rubbish, is that we\’re creating the same breeding ground for corruption.
Not something I consider an advance in our civilization, let alone our freedom and liberty.
Having our society run by the clipboard wielders will inevitably lead to our bribing the clipboard wielders to leave us alone.