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PUBLIC: Re: Well ... I'm confused ...
There is no need to "prof" me (just "Prabhu" is fine).
The error is a simple one: IMO you mistake the nature of corruption.
It has nothing to do with genes or half-lives. It has to do with the
will of individuals and with the consequences of exercising that will
in one direction (honesty) or another (corruption); the consequences
are of course a matter of social and political engineering, which is
why I find the IP discussion group so interesting: we can all help
create systems in which corruption is more (or less) easy to indulge
in, more (or less) detected, more (or less) punished, more (or less)
severely. Of course it is our daily words and actions which help to
"lift" or "lower" the overall effectiveness of any system.
IMO corruption is more in the nature of a disease (at least it has
been so in the case of our own country, as far as I can make out). I
have not undertaken a proper study of it, but am basing this
"hypothesis" on my personal experiences:
when I was growing up, in Delhi, from 1957 onwards (earlier elsewhere
but I was unaware of these things in the provinces), it was not
"necessary" to bribe to get routine and legal things done eventually,
but it was "necessary" to get routine things "expedited" (which meant
within one's patience or convenience). I imagine it was necessary to
bribe in order to get ILlegal things done, but those were beyond my
ken in those tender years.
As time went on, it became necessary to bribe in order to get routine
and legal things done at all. But it was necessary to give only a
relatively small bribe (say Rupees one to five) and it was necessary
to give it only once (it did not seem to matter in those days whether
the bribe went to the clerk or to the man at the door).
Today, it seems necessary to bribe everyone at every step, and the
amounts have grown enormously, certainly beyond the legal means of the
ordinary citizen (though five rupees was a lot of money in those
I conclude: corruption has grown like a disease.
I recollect a Prof at the Delhi School of Economics who once gave me a
lift from the Delhi University campus (where I studied) over the Ridge
to the city centre. During our conversation, I asked him if DSE was
really as good as it was reputed to be (in those days, people there
compared it to the London School of Economics). He replied that there
was no doubt in his mind that it was (he had studied at LSE, if I
recollect aright). I then enquired why, if we had such good minds in
India, we seemed to be doing so badly as a nation from an economic
point of view. I have never forgotten his reply: "My dear chap, we at
DSE and in the government can make the best possible plans in the
world, but there is no way in which we can account for how ingeniously
people can turn and twist the system for their own benefit. That is
why some people grow richer and richer at the cost of the country".
The theory in those days was that the "commanding heights" of the
economy were to be in the hands of the government while the market was
supposed to rule everywhere else. The government machinery worked
less and less effectively (though there continued to be outstanding
examples of well-run and profitable government enterprises - it all
depended on the top man), while the "rest" of the economy was
eventually organised to the benefit of a small percentage of people
(am I being generous?).
Anyway, let us look at things at a somewhat different level. I don't
think anyone seriously argues that our first Prime Minister was very
corrupt (even his worst enemies during his lifetime and after never
charged him with being corrupt, as far as I know). However, people
did charge him with tolerating at least one corrupt individual in his
cabinet, which he began to do at least in the Sixties, inspite of
stinging denunciations in the press (I seem to recollect Blitz doing
several exposes). Gradually, it seems (though it may have been very
rapid, in reality) more and more people became corrupt (or corrupt
people were raised to power) till the whole political machine seems
incredibly corrupt today - so much so that you and I may legitimately
harbour doubts about whether there are many honest people left in our
politics and even whether any originally-honest people can survive
honest for long in our system. Perhaps I am being too pessimistic....
Unfortunately, I don't know of any social scientist who has documented
the growth of corruption in India since Independence.
I do know that there have been various attempts at estimating the
extent of the black economy (these are of course only estimates, and
economists differ on how to make such estimates and how accurate all
such estimates are in any case). And again, I don't have even these
estimated figures to hand (Indian economics is not my field), but I
recollect clearly that the relevant figure kept going up and up till
today the estimates are overwhelming. How can a government be
expected to make sensible monetary and fiscal policies when so large a
section of the economy is outside its ambit? Anyway, this is the best
evidence I can offer - perhaps others on this list can offer better
evidence, or can quantify it better than I can at this moment....
So, in what ways has corruption been like a disease in the case of
India?: it has spread enormously and its efffects have been enormously
debilitating. Perhaps I should compare corruption not to an ordinary
disease but to a cancer. Doctors tell me that every human being has
"cancer" in his system all the time, but "normal, healthy" human
beings constantly have the upper hand on this cancer; people are said
to contract cancer when they stop having the upper hand on the
cancerous cells. In the same way, it seems to me, every society has
some corruption; the question is: when does the system as a whole stop
having the upper hand on it. And how much corruption is necessary
before the whole system seizes up. We have not reached that point yet
of course but how much further, considering that it only finally takes
a straw to break a camel's back.
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