Saturday, March 20, 2010

Poll: What is the role of the bribe?

I recently read a chapter in a book on bribery, by John Noonan. In this chapter, Noonan compared the history of the bribe to the history of slavery and the history of charging interest in banking. In his words:
Is bribery more like slavery or more like usury? Is the idea likely to remain vigorous and even expand its dominance, so that more reciprocities will be challenged and rooted out as contrary to the satisfaction of human needs? Or is bribery likely to shrink, to be applied only in cases of spectacular official greed as usury is invoked where rates of interest become bloated? The future of the bribe depends on whether bribery remains a matter of moral focus and judgment. Reasons, now to be examined, exist for seeing the matter in two conflicting ways.
Noonan proceeds to outline the case for bribery as a "non-moral concept" and contrast it with the case for bribery as a moral concept. Here are the key ideas.

Bribery as a non-moral concept:

1. Everybody does it.
2. It is necessary to do it.
3. Reciprocities are formally indistinguishable (bribes look like gifts and tips, which are not morally dubious).
4. Bribery is immorally enforced.
5. The material effect of bribery is trivial/undemonstrated

Bribery as a moral concept:

1. Bribery is universally shameful (every country has laws against bribery)
2. Bribery is a sellout to the rich
3. Bribery is a betrayal of trust

Noonan -- in review of these arguments -- concludes that bribery will continue to be condemned, and argues that it should be. That brings me to my poll question of the week.

In your opinion, what is the role of the bribe?

(a) Economic necessity, no morality needed.
(b) Morally dubious. Never justified economically.
(c) Wrong both morally and economically.
(d) Right both morally and economically.

As with all polls, this poll is open for a week. Please vote early and often (on the sidebar --->). Do whatever you deem necessary to get your friends to vote. Gifts, tips, and bribes are strongly encouraged to get other people to vote -- unless you are morally opposed. I look forward to seeing what you have to say.

1 comment:

  1. 6 said "necessary, amoral"
    10 said "immoral, not necessary"
    5 said "right morally and economically"
    9 said "wrong morally and economically"


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