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The cost of getting rid of Corruption...India, Singapore, America, etc

Whilst tens of thousands are coming out across India in support of anti-corruption activist Hazare, I couldn’t help but wondering about the nature of 'corruption'.  (bbc: India Corruption)

One thing I have to give credit to the Chinese elite, i.e China and Singapore, is in how they come up with innovative ways to legalise corruption and extortion.  What do i mean by ‘legalising’ corruption?

The legalisation of corruption requires, firstly, the proscription against popular corruption where civil servants at all levels impose charges for the performance or non-performance of their duties. 

Next comes the contraction of corruption where charges are still imposed for the performance or non-performance of duties, but the sums collected are channeled to the elite. i.e. those ‘administrative charges’ for pressing an ‘enter’ button on the computer, or extra charges levied for the use of cash as opposed to credit and debit cards.

It seems, at the end of the day, that people have no problem with corruption, so long as they are getting screwed only by the government whom they aren’t dealing with directly, as opposed to a policeman who stops you because one tail-light isn’t blinking in sync with the other. But there is another variant of corruption, or more accurately, extortion, like in Singapore, where charges are levied for silly reasons like smoking in the ‘wrong place’ even if it is in the open air as opposed to ‘designated smoking areas’ even though they be in relatively less open-air places.  Or COE charges which have to be paid before one can buy a car which can be more than the price of the car itself.  Or fines for assault that are pocketed by the government.  Or the minimum that has to be kept in your transport cards and basically never spent but which is invested by the government for further gains.  Or even Prime/Ministerial salaries which are pegged to the private sector, or the price of HDB flats which have been built with the people’s money, but are sold back at grossly higher prices - an experience not dissimilar to ‘indentured (chinese) labour’ brought in by other chinese during Singapore’s early history.

Corruption, at the end of the day, is charges levied beyond logic even if it is done so with reason, and most of the money that is extracted from the people does not return to them.  But it seems that the only difference between corrupt states and ‘modern’ ones is that in the latter, the fruits of illogically-acquired money is enjoyed only by the elite. 

If you think about it, when corruption is enjoyed only by the elite, that is when the people will turn into vicious beasts who will do their utmost to make up for the money lost to the elite by, well, screwing each other within legal boundaries.  Whether it is the elite or the people, they all do it within legal means, albeit unreasonable. 

So the popularisation of corruption, as is in the case of India, may not be such a bad thing.  If people allowed the government to monopolise corruption through legal extortion, levies, charges, etc.  They will just end up being equally vicious themselves over time.

But, of course, we could get rid of corruption altogether, both top and bottom.  But that’s going to be quite the  impossible task within a capitalist system where the elite legally give less in return for more.  The ethos of capitalism is no different from the ethos of popular corruption.  The only difference is that in a 'modern' '1st world' capitalist state, it has been legalised via the monopolisation and thus redefinition of corruption by the elite.

It seems, at the end of the day, that people have no problem with corruption - and especially where they take the capitalist system as the norm - so long as they are getting screwed only by the government whom they aren’t dealing with directly, as opposed to a policeman who stops you because one tail-light isn’t blinking in sync with the other - or, if they have developed a system whereby the legalised corruption by the government is softened by popular mutual 'gratitude', as is the case with 'tipping' in America.

When people have to deal with other corrupt people amongst them, it deprives them of the chance to screw each other legally to get around state-imposed financial burdens/corruption.  Hence, they'd rather do away with popular corruption amongst them so that they can get on with the business of screwing each other to  make life within state-monopolised corruption more endurable.  And besides this, people hate to feel inferior and powerless compared to other people as opposed to the government.  Think about that for moment.

The people of India, along with other anti-corruption activists globally ought to give this a think.  If not, the more insightful amongst us will wonder if they are seeking a solution to a problem, or are part of a bigger impending problem that's going to emerge once corruption moves from being democratised, as is currently the case in India, or is monopolised by the state - as is currently the case in China and Singapore, amongst others.



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