We have to wean fish off water
March 31, 2011 11:00 PM Subscribe
posted by vidur (37 comments total)
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"The paper puts forward a small but novel idea of how we can cut down the incidence of bribery. There are different kinds of bribes and what this paper is concerned with are bribes that people often have to give to get what they are legally entitled to. I shall call these 'harassment bribes'. Suppose an income tax refund is held back from a taxpayer till he pays some cash to the officer. Suppose government allots subsidized land to a person but when the person goes to get her paperwork done and receive documents for this land, she is asked to pay a hefty bribe. These are all illustrations of harassment bribes. Harassment bribery is widespread in India and it plays a large role in breeding inefficiency and has a corrosive effect on civil society. The central message of this paper is that we should declare the act of giving a bribe in all such cases as legitimate activity
[PDF]. In other words the giver of a harassment bribe should have full immunity from any punitive action by the state."
"The main argument of this paper is that such a change in the law will cause a dramatic drop in the incidence of bribery. The reasoning is simple. Under the current law, discussed in some detail in the next section, once a bribe is given, the bribe giver and the bribe taker become partners in crime. It is in their joint interest to keep this fact hidden from the authorities and to be fugitives from the law, because, if caught, both expect to be punished. Under the kind of revised law that I am proposing here, once a bribe is given and the bribe giver collects whatever she is trying to acquire by giving the money, the interests of the bribe taker and bribe giver become completely orthogonal to each other. If caught, the bribe giver will go scot free and will be able to collect his bribe money back. The bribe taker, on the other hand, loses the booty of bribe and faces a hefty punishment."
"In the scheme I am suggesting one problem that will open up is that public servants may be vulnerable to blackmail and false charges of bribe-taking. We could try to plug this loophole by increasing the punishment for blackmail and false accusation. What all this underlines is the fact that there is nothing fool-proof in economic policy design."
Background reading source
: Corruption in India
("As of 2010, India is the ninth-most corrupt country in the world, with about 54% of Indians paying a bribe in the past year, according to a global survey by Transparency International.