April 19, 2019

The Power of the Bribe

“An elderly neighbor of mine recently gave me some life-changing advice. In an alleyway near our building, representatives from three different political campaign groups have set up camp, and every morning they cling to anyone who passes them by, like those suckerfish who won’t leave whales alone. Since I find it hard to deal with that kind of thing—especially early in the morning—I asked my neighbor, Mr. Rupp, how he deals with our unwelcome guests.

“It’s simple,” he barked at me. “When they first moved in, I gave them €20 [$22] each so they’d never speak to me again. They’ve left me in peace ever since.”

Until then, bribery had never crossed my mind. But the more I thought about it, the more logical it seemed. According to a ranking done by Transparency International, Austria is in 16 place on the index of corruption—so although we’re not doing too badly, we’re still pretty far from absolution.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I don’t need an international study to tell me what I already know. Growing up, I watched members of my own family bribe often, and well—to gently encourage builders get the job done faster, for example, or in an attempt to get served more promptly in a restaurant.”

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