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PUBLIC: Re: Well ... I'm confused ...



     Dear Sanjeev
     
     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 
     days).
     
     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.
     
     Prabhu

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