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Taking Bribes Monday May 14, 2012

Taking Bribes

Some time ago I met a man I knew slightly and to make conversation I asked him how business was. He told me his business was terrible because all of the kickbacks he had to give in order to do business, were taking the profitability out of it.

I said I bet when you started your business years ago, you gave kickbacks and bribes in order to take business away from your larger competitors. So they had to do the same to compete with your tactics, and so the cost kept going up. So now you are hoisted on your own petard.

He frowned and said I didnt know you were so smart and walked away.

In many countries and cultures, bribery is a norm. A way of life. Nothing moves unless the wheels are greased so to speak. But even here in our civilized Western society we are not exempt from such practices. We just disguise them. Lobbyists and corporations make donations to politicians and their campaigns and SuperPACs. Pharmaceutical companies pay for Doctors to attend conferences in Hawaii or Bali.

What is the difference between a bribe and a tip. Both are intended to insure prompt service. In our culture there is a difference, because a tip is open and disclosed to management a bribe is not.

But what about a culture where bribes are as expected in that society as tipping is in ours. In such an environment is giving a bribe dishonest, or is it a clash of cultures.

We in the West think that we are a moral society and that we have the correct value system. But then you only have to look around our correct value system and you see bribes and corruption everywhere.

We like to think of ourselves as better than other societies. But when we weigh it all out, perhaps it is just sheer hypocrisy.