Friday, January 6, 2012

They Paid A Bribe

The United States is not exactly famous these days among its countrymen for honesty concerning money, or allowing others to get or keep it. You've got your questionable fees, you've got your much-maligned tax plans, you've got your lobbying, you've got embezzlement and insider trading and every manner of gaming of the legal system. Sing along, you know the words.

It could, however, be much worse. There could be bribes.

In countries further down than the United States on the Corruption Perception Index (and the US ranks 24th out of 183), bribes are a part of day-to-day life. In order to get essential services, get a driving license, avoid arrest for minor offenses or have pretty much any part of your day go right, odds are sooner or later you'll be asked to pay a bribe. (Although it's never outright called a bribe. More like a 'fee' or a 'donation' or a 'fine'.)

One tactic being recently explored as of late is to catalog instances of bribes in an effort to stem the tide through shaming. In India, a site popped up in 2010 called I Paid A Bribe. Anyone who has had to do so for any reason can anonymously tell about it. (You don't get to say who you had to bribe, though, on worries that being able to do that would be easily abused.) The amount paid and where it happened is noted, and statistics kept. People can also, if they've managed to get out of paying a bribe, tell about that too, as well as if they ran into someone honest who didn't make them pay one. The idea has already been franchised out to Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and the Philippines, with several other countries clamoring for their own. Bangladesh, Nepal, Russia and Sri Lanka are mentioned in the link. Further searching shows Greece, Jamaica, South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago as also wanting such a site. China also has a spate of sites popping up, though amongst worries of being shut down.

No, there has been nobody, at least nobody that I can find, clamoring for an American equivalent. If someone tried, every last one of these countries- and many others that didn't even get named here- would put the States to shame. Or relief. Or whatever word it is we want in this context.

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