Open Debate: What Motivates A Bribe, Black Money, How To Prevent It?

As I read the news today, I see the headlines flash saying –

prevent bribe, magistrate takes bribe, motivation for a bribe, how to prevent bribe and corruption, moral society and self improvement

“CBI arrests a special metropolitan magistrate while taking a bribe of Rs.25,000/-  from a shop owner in Delhi” 

And I begin to wonder on a lot of lines. And the most important one we explore is what motivates a bribe?!

I think we are all quite fed up of this word bribe and sometimes it makes us wonder if corruption has reached to such a level that the government and its its functionality has become synonymous with bribe. I sincerely hope not.

We have all read about these affairs, the major alluring factors in the society which can be money or land or gold or gifts and what not. And each one of these sicken us a little in the stomach and we wonder how to get rid of this entire system of graft in the country? And I bet, this is not the problem with just a developing nation, but a developed one too but the degree and the intensity might be a little different.

Before we try and find ways as to how we can eliminate bribe, let’s just try and think what motivates the action in the first place.

A lot of answers come to our mind. And honestly a lot more questions come to our mind as we try and debate the mentality of a person giving or receiving bribe.

A person pays bribe for two reasons.

 1) To get something done faster and more effectively.

Well although this seems like a bit of a victimless crime – kinda like offering tips for a service like in the restaurants, but it is done at the cost of the other files or other people who had requested for a petition much earlier.

2) To get something done illegally.

Well, illegal might be a strong word, let us say something out of the books, something which is not usually done. This might be as simple as paying Rs.100 to escape going to the court when you make a traffic violation or bribe the authority to get the license faster no matter how you perform in the driving test. This is another variant of graft and can extend to calling of tenders, giving boost to some businesses while crushing others. In this case, the victims can be way bigger than we imagine.

Why Does A Person Receive Bribe?

The two above are good reasons to bribe someone. But what are the reasons for the ones receiving it?

  • Don’t they have a moral boundary or a sense which holds them back?
  • Don’t they have any conscience at all?
  • What might be their rationale to receive bribe?
  • How can they justify their own actions to themselves and live in peace with it?

You might say that these are unscrupulous people who don’t have any sense. I would tend to disagree here. I would like to believe in the moral sense of people and the fabric which defines them. All these people who have taken these bribes would have at least at once thought that it was wrong before they were tipped off from that point where they took the first bribe.

The first mistake was the big one and surprisingly it might have started with something as simple as stealing a pencil from work. But what hurts the most is that it stays! And the reasons for anything to stay or start – anything good or bad, there has to be a constant dose of motivation for the same. And what are the reasons for that?

What Keeps The Bribe Mechanism Alive

1) Peer pressure

This is a nice little world. Our peers in a lot of ways define the quality of life we lead. As it is rightly said

“A man is known by the company he keeps”

The peers are going to define some of our values in the society. You might say that the values are individual and I really agree with you. But I also agree to the fact that a lot of times the society decides what is right or wrong for us. To be brutally honest, the society does have a strangle hold on our thoughts and it takes a bit of genuine thought and reality to get out of it. We had talked about this in our last discussion about Society and its strangle hold on an individual. That will provide some base on this.

For a person who knows that he is making a mistake, he would rather sit comfortably in the lap of a society that condones and sometimes even appreciates it than coming out and facing his real conscience

2) The Rationalizations

This is quite a simple answer, just like we give ourselves the lame reasons as to why we don’t go to the gym everyday or get up early or postpone our homework or slip on our eating habits – the same things work here. Of course the details are different, but for a person taking it, he can easily rationalize with this

  • Well, even I was cheated by someone else. Let me make up to this and I will stop
  • I deserve this, the job I am in doesn’t appreciate me for the work I do
  • This is the only way I can maintain status in the society
  • The entire office is doing it. It is harder not to take it cos my seniors will make my life difficult. If I am suffering for the good work I do, then why not do it bad and get gifts for the same.

The rationalizations are the key and they sure seem to work very well to keep the institution alive

3) Comparison.

This is perhaps caused by the generation gap and the flow of money at ease of late. Maybe it is the same reason why the autos ask us for a min of Rs.40 when the meter shows Rs.25. It might be the same reason why a software engineer is sold an apple at Rs.100 while the same is sold at Rs.50 for the normal population. The rationale is not that they can afford. The rationale is simply that they are making more money, the costs have increased only because of them. Why shouldn’t I do the same? They can afford it!

And the same extends to the size of the plot, the brand of our car, the amount of teak wood used in the house and so on. There is never going to be an end to this comparison.

4) Impunity

Well, as the law of human action goes – we do something to either gain pleasure or escape pain. In the above three points too, we discussed how someone avoids the internal pain and how someone justifies his own action to himself or anyone basically. But the external factor too plays a role.

If I can take bribe and do something, then maybe I can pay bribe and escape punishment too. And the pain that might or might not happen in the far future might not be a sufficiently strong reason for someone to stop. Maybe adding a more immediate punishment mechanism might help. And that mechanism need not be a legal one, it can be as simple as a simple youtube video or an image posted against them. Most people respond to society stronger than they respond to law. Maybe we can tap on that.

The above four reasons can sound like real simple and easy reasons for someone to hide under. And trust me, I am not defending the person who takes bribe or the one who gives it. Just like yours, even my conscience wants to be strictly against it. The answer might just be in identifying the root of the problem and if someone said that the society has fallen into decay and there is no way around it, we are just saying that this is not the case.

There are these internal reasons which can very well be targeted to realize the goals of a morally defined society or a conscious society. The only discussion we intended to do was a curios one as to what might motivate someone to take a bribe and what might motivate them to keep going at it.

I am sure we might have missed a couple of points here, please let us know below and we would love to add more to the debate above.

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5 Responses to "Open Debate: What Motivates A Bribe, Black Money, How To Prevent It?"

    1. Thank you Somali. I think the number of reasons seem to keep expanding each time I think about it. I wish I had a more concrete solution towards it, but even the govts are struggling to get there. So I guess a conscious effort will slowly take us there.

  1. The problem is its extremely difficult to escape. I think you have covered everything; however there are few other areas where you cannot avoid like the other day when I went to register my property in the registration office they charged 1100 to move the file and if I would not have paid I would have to take leave from office once, twice or may be many more times to this remote office post which they will take a call. The reason/logic was files were piling up; however I never saw them working apart from for the person who paid. Its sad and extremely ugly and at times irritating.

    1. Thank you Shamsud. I agree mate, it sure is a horrid problem to solve and each time someone seems to get close, there is another work around to it. The whole issue of a small immorality has grown so much that it has become a menace now and each one we see rationalises it so well that it makes me wonder if maybe we are on the wrong track to think that this is wrong. I wonder where this scene is headed now!!

  2. hmmm…Vinay… I think bride is a power game?… look I have the power to give you this but I want something in return… and we otherwise face hell. Sometimes we pay simpily for peace, when I take auto ride, I generally don’t bargain, if I felt he did drop and behave properly, I tell them keep the change too… perhapes its just a way to keep the people who can harm us happy. Really but it is sad, takes lot of restrait to bear all troubles and not pat bribes sometimes… thesedays its easier with this RTI and power to complain against authorities. Bur as long as there are powerful authorities there will be fear in common man and common man will compromise. Only way to empower them is constant awareness and support. You have no idea the sort of insecurities people get sometimes… a family person with kids particularly girl kids when dealing with powerful elements is always a bit afraid for safety of his family. I had this fear psychosis in Delhi a lot… infact if my Dad did have a fight with a driver or maid or any person, he was afraid I would be targeted by those people and I hated feeling like a burden then… now I realise nothing can be done, compromising and submiting to the powerful is really demeaning… I hope we have the courage to face things, generally we are safe, but well someday we may have to deal with powerful sides, fight with the wrong doers to stand tall rather than hide somewhere. But it’s hard indeed!!… especially for the poor I guess and the poor girls at large I guess…anyway


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