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The business of corruption

Ike Señeres .

SIMPLY put, bureaucrat-capitalism is the practice of using the official capacity or authority of a public official for his or her private financial gain, by way of doing some kind of business activity. In other words, bureaucrat-capitalism is simply and plainly just capitalism, but with the other extra layer of bureaucratic influence. Mind you, this is not just simple graft and corruption that usually happens on a per transaction only. This is more than simple graft and corruption because its economic life could extend for many years, up until the time that the official loses his or her position by way of removal, resignation or retirement. To understand what bureaucrat-capitalism really is, we should also understand what graft and corruption really is.

Nowadays, we seem to hear a lot about corruption only as a general term, and not about the combined term that is graft and corruption. As it is supposed to be, there is no graft if there is no corruption, because corruption is the cause of graft. In that sense, it is therefore wrong to say that there is no poor people if there are no corrupt people, because there will always be corrupt people for as long as graft practices would make them prosper. We have to be careful about believing these misleading slogans. Another example is the saying that God will pity you if you work hard, because the truth is, God will give you his grace even if you do not deserve it, even if you do nothing to earn it.

In theory, graft is the consequence of corruption, because graft is committed when someone corrupts a public official one way or the other. Perhaps to dramatize the proper sequence, we should use the term “corruption and graft”. This discussion about corruption and graft is however irrelevant when it comes to bureaucrat-capitalism, because bureaucrat-capitalism could happen even if there is no corruption, and as a matter of fact, it would even be difficult to prove that a public official has committed graft in the first place, because he may not have stolen from the public coffers at all, having made his or her money from businesses that may have prospered because of his official capacity or authority.

Well, it is one thing to make money from a business that prospers because of official capacity or authority, in the sense that it is a legitimate enterprise. It is another thing however to make money from “selling” approvals of government contracts, or “selling” the outcome of court cases. Under normal conditions, a public official who is prone to committing graft would often ask what it is for him if he influences the approvals or outcomes. The way to answer him if he or she asks is that he or she does not deserve anything, because it is his business to deliver public services for the public good, and not to conduct his own private business for his personal gain.

I have heard stories about justice for sale, as it happens when prosecutors and judges would connive to influence the outcomes of court decisions. I have also heard stories about young idealistic lawyers who resign from the big law firms, after discovering that cases are no longer decided because of monies, and not because of merits. Add to that the reality that many cases are now being decided not on the basis of what you know about it, but on the basis of whom you know in the courts. I have also heard stories about “bagmen” who bring the money to corrupt officials, but there seems to be a variation now about “box men” bringing money to dirty prosecutors and judges inside shoe boxes.

I would say that we only have one life to live in this earth and essentially we also have one choice whether to go to heaven or hell. Those young lawyers who are resigning from the big law firms to avoid getting involved in corruption appear to have made a move that would line them up for heaven. On the other hand, the young lawyers who become prosecutors who are tempted to go into the “business” of accepting bribes may already be lining themselves to go to hell. For the Catholics among them, they may be making the mistake of going to confession each time they accept bribes, but only to accept bribes again and go to confession again, doing some kind of vicious cycle.

As it is supposed to be, Christians (and not just Catholics) are not supposed to offer bribes, because doing that would either be a sin or wrongdoing. They could however agree to give cash or in kind if and when they are solicited, meaning if the public official would be the one to ask for a bribe. The reason for that is a Christian businessman has the duty to feed his family and the families of their employees. In this equation however, the Christian businessman is not corrupting the public official but in the final analysis, the public official still ends up committing graft. No, I am not condoning small time graft and corruption, but it seems to me that bureaucrat-capitalism is an even bigger problem.


E-mail: iseneres@yahoo.com


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