Corruption

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Marc comes across corruption on his first trip to India, and in this essay, he explains the various practices that are intimately related to dishonesty or criminal activity to acquire illicit benefit.

When I travelled for the first time to India, I landed in Mumbai and bought at the very busy Victoria Terminus  a train ticket to Pune. In the train, in the middle of the night, when the ticket collector asked for my ticket, I handed it over.

“No. No, no good,” said the conductor, you have to buy a new ticket!”

“What is wrong with this ticket? I just bought it at the counter of the train station,” I said, rather upset.

“No, this is a used ticket, not valid, you must buy a new ticket now,” repeated the conductor doggedly.

The policeman who accompanied the ticket collector moved a step forward. My mind went berserk: What is happening here? Are they playing with me? They showed me a mark on the ticket (which was printed in Hindi); it indicated that the ticket had indeed been used, and somebody had sold me a used ticket at Victoria station.

It was a lesson in corruption and a not very nice welcome to India. I was fined and had to pay for a new ticket as well.

In general terms, corruption is a form of dishonesty or criminal activity undertaken by a person or organization entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire illicit benefit. Corruption may include many activities including bribery and embezzlement, though it may also involve practices that are legal in many countries.

Political corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity for personal gain. Corruption is most commonplace in kleptocracies, oligarchies, narco-states and mafia states.

Corruption can occur on different scales. Corruption ranges from small favours between a small number of people (petty corruption), to corruption that affects the government on a large scale (grand corruption), and corruption that is so prevalent that it is part of the everyday structure of society, including corruption as one of the symptoms of organized crime. Corruption and crime are endemic sociological occurrences which appear with regular frequency in virtually all countries on a global scale in varying degree and proportion. Individual nations each allocate domestic resources for the control and regulation of corruption and crime.

Petty corruption occurs at a smaller scale and takes place at the implementation end of public services when public officials meet the public. For example, in many small places such as registration offices, police stations, train stations as in my case in India, state licensing boards, schools, universities and many other private and government sectors.

Grand corruption is defined as corruption occurring at the highest levels of government in a way that requires significant subversion of the political, legal and economic systems. Such corruption is commonly found in countries with authoritarian or dictatorial governments but also in those without adequate policing of corruption.

Systemic corruption (or endemic corruption) is corruption which is primarily due to the weaknesses of an organization or process.

Factors which encourage systemic corruption include conflicting incentives, discretionary powers; monopolistic powers; lack of transparency; low pay; and a culture of impunity.

But there is so much more…

Bribery involves the improper use of gifts and favours in exchange for personal gain. This is also known as kickbacks or, in certain MiddleEast and Asian countries, as baksheesh (from Persian bakhshīsh). It means a payment to expedite service and is , a common form of corruption.

Embezzlement and theft involve someone with access to funds or assets who is illegally taking control of them.

Fraud involves using deception to convince the owner of funds or assets to give them up to an unauthorized party. Examples include the misdirection of company funds into “shadow companies” (and then into the pockets of corrupt employees), the skimming of foreign aid money, scams and other corrupt activity.

The political act of Graft is now a global form of political corruption, viz the unscrupulous and illegal use of a politician’s authority for personal gain, when funds intended for public projects are intentionally misdirected in order to maximize the benefits to illegally private interests of the corrupted individual(s) and their cronies.

Extortion and blackmail centre around the use of threats. This can be the threat of violence or false imprisonment as well as exposure of an individual’s secrets or prior crimes. This includes such behaviour as an influential person threatening to go to the media if they do not receive speedy medical treatment (at the expense of other patients), threatening a public official with exposure of their secrets if they do not vote in a particular manner, or demanding money in exchange for continued secrecy.

Favouritism, nepotism and clientelism involve the favouring of someone related to the perpetrator of corruption, such as a friend, family member or member of an association. Examples would include hiring or promoting a family member or staff member to a role they are not qualified for, who belongs to the same political party as you, regardless of merit.

Causes of corruption

Greed for money
Greed for power
Greed for luxury or any other materialistic desires
Higher levels of market and political monopolization
Low levels of democracy, weak civil participation and low political transparency
Higher levels of bureaucracy and inefficient administrative structures
Low press freedom
Low economic freedom
Large ethnic divisions and high levels of in-group favouritism
Gender inequality
Poverty
Political instability
Weak property rights
Contagion from corrupt neighboring countries
Low levels of education
Lack of commitment to the society

By comparing the most corrupt with the least corrupt countries, it has been found that the former group consists of nations with huge socio-economic inequalities, and the latter of nations with a high degree of social and economic justice.

Every person comes across corruption in their life. As children we already experience being pushed by parents and teachers to aim higher – to have a career, to become a doctor, to become a president, to become famous. And by reaching any of those goals, some corruption was needed to help the rise to power along. And having reached power and prestige, more corruption is essential to stay on top.

To not become involved with corruption, power and prestige, utter honesty about one’s actions is vital. I remember hearing Osho say that action comes out of awareness – and awareness is a by-product of meditation.

Related discourse by Osho
Basically, fundamentally, Lord Acton is wrong

Antar Marc

Marc is an artist, coach, lecturer and writer of essays about topics of general interest.

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