The Facts on Government and Bribery
Bribery is one of the most common crimes to be encountered in terms of government corruption. It is a crime based on the misuse of power, and power is all too abundant for government officials. However, the issue of bribery and its role in government is very complex, as many in the upper echelons believe that they can get away with acts of bribery without being caught. As a result, bribery has become somewhat intrinsic to many forms of government.
Even in America, there are actions which would elsewhere be construed as outright bribery, which are here defended via the legal system. Understanding the exact nature of bribery in governments throughout the world and in America's own government is important to having an understanding of the nature of practical, realistic government.
Bribery is such a common crime because it is so obvious, based on one of the simplest ideas inherent to human interaction: quid pro quo, "this for that." As bribery is essentially just an exchange, in which one individual promises to use his power for the benefit of another in exchange for some good or service, it is terribly easy to commit and is all too commonplace. Yet, the insidiousness of the problem is such that, for all that it is expected and easily foreseen, it is also very hard to detect.
Government agents guilty of bribery, either by offering or soliciting, are more than capable of creating ways in which to hide that bribery under a guise of legality. Nonetheless, steps must be taken to combat this crime, as it threatens the governmental system at its very foundations. Follow the link for some more basic information on bribery and its relationship to governments.
When dealing with international relations, bribery can be an entirely different problem than its normal form. Different cultures often have different opinions on bribery and its acceptability, complicating the issue simply because representatives of one culture might take an action they believe to be innocuous, while members of another culture would then perceive that action as the height of corruption and bribery.
Even beyond these cultural misunderstandings about the nature of bribery, however, it continues to be a major problem, undermining the legitimate systems of the world, governmental and business related.
A lot of current bribery law is oriented towards controlling businesses, and preventing them from bribing foreign government officials, as doing so hurts commerce in general and also discourages legitimate business practices.
Though it very much needs to be remedied and battled wherever it crops up, bribery is very tough to successfully reduce, if only because of the great difficulty inherent in regulating a crime which is generally difficult to detect without a great deal of investigation. Systems already in place in America often act as masks, under which one can successfully hide acts of bribery, further increasing the difficulty of finding and addressing bribery.
As if these weren't problems enough, bribery itself is often difficult to prosecute because of the unethical conception of government operations often found in the mindset of those who perpetrate acts of bribery. This unethical conception holds that bribery is a fundamental, irremovable element of government and its functions. All of these hurdles, and more, stand in the way of successfully combating bribery. Follow the link to find more about the difficulties of reducing bribery.
America has put in place its own restrictions on businesses dealing with foreign governments in an attempt to prevent bribery from damaging America's international trade practices too much. The primary act of this nature is the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which essentially makes it illegal for any American business to bribe a foreign official in an attempt to either maintain old work or obtain new work.
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act includes several other nuanced sections, however, in order to better deal with the problems facing international relations and bribery. Furthermore, the Forreign Corrupt Practices Act faces difficulty in fulfilling its function, as it only affects American businesses.
Businesses from other countries would theoretically still be able to perform the very crimes that the FCPA prohibits, and therefore, American businesses would suffer from not being able to compete. Follow the link to learn more about the FCPA and how it is designed to solve the problem of international bribery.
Taxation can be used as a tool to both perpetrate bribery and to discourage it, depending upon the purpose given it by every given nation. Some nations use taxes to favor some business while disfavoring others, for instance, by giving out tax exemptions or other tax-based preferential treatment.
But America and the other nations who have signed onto a Convention from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development have begun to use taxation policies for discouraging bribery, making it clear that bribery is not acceptable in any area of government concern. For more information on how taxation and bribery interact, click the link.
In America, one of the foremost areas in which bribery could easily occur is in campaign contributions and finance. Every time a political candidate runs for office, he or she must run in a campaign advocating himself or herself for that office. To run the campaign, he or she needs ample funding, which can oftentimes be difficult to obtain without turning to private sources. In America, private contributions make up a hefty portion of campaign funding, which is not bad in and of itself. However, sometimes these private contributions do not come as freely and openly as they legally should.
Though the United States Government has passed laws to the effect that one cannot perpetrate bribery through campaign contributions by seeking a direct action in exchange for the contribution, campaign contributions can still influence and affect political candidates in negative ways, and often will only be made with the expectancy of some sort of reciprocation on the part of the candidate. For more about how bribery might be inherent to American campaign financing, follow the link.
While political campaigns may be a very effective shade under which to hide acts of bribery, there is another major American governmental system which performs the same role, and perhaps does so with even greater success: the lobbying system. Lobbying is the system under which lobbyists meet with legislators and explain the purpose and goals of the lobbies they represent, which is innocuous enough.
But the problems begin to arise when lobbyists give contributions to politicians. Ostensibly, this is done because lobbyists want politicians who will support their aims to be put into office, and by gifting money to their chosen politicians they make this outcome more likely. In reality, the contributions often take a much more sinister form than mere endorsements. Click the link to learn more about this American political system and its links to bribery.
"Pay to Play" politics refers to a specific practice of political workings, in which one must pay some amount of money, often as a campaign contribution, to obtain Government contracts or other benefits. Pay to Play politics has become increasingly more prosecuted, as it bears disturbingly much in common with simple bribery.
Sometimes, Pay to Play arises just from the nature of the political system, as it does in the realm of campaigning, where candidates must have money simply in order to remain competitive with their opponents and one candidate with tremendous amounts of funding may actually be able to win the election simply by virtue of his fuller war chest. But other times, Pay to Play comes directly from solicitations and actions on the part of Government officials and skirts dangerously close, and sometimes crosses over into, the criminal territory of bribery. For more about Pay to Play politics and what they mean, follow the link.
Examples of bribery in government abound, like the recent scandal with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. This example exemplifies perfectly the criminal and dangerous nature of bribery in government, and all the potential damage it can wreak.
As an example of both bribery and so-called "Pay to Play" politics, Blagojevich's attempt to sell Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat stands out as the height of corruption and impropriety. Fortunately, this was also a textbook example in which such heinous practices were discovered and punished.
Blagojevich did not get away from his wrongdoing unscathed and his punishment was as severe as it should have been. For more information on this quintessential example of bribery and its punishment, click the link.