Thursday, November 11, 2010

Subsidiarity in Anticorruption

I've been reading my way forward in the Uncubed webcomic archives. It's an autobiographical comic by the creator of PC Weenies. He described an encounter with the corruption that is endemic to India here.

When you live in a land where the law rules, as I do, it's really easy to forget that not all lands are so blessed, or the grave harm such corruption does, especially to the poorest of the poor. Imagine having to pay a month's wages to get a doctor's appointment, or a license to do business, or to run a charity, or to get your neighborhood connected to municipal utilities. This is the sad reality in many poor and developing parts of the world, where the Judeo-Christian ethic of government employees owing service to the polity has never taken hold.

I found in the comments a link to a Boston Globe article (which is well worth reading, btw). The article details anecdotes of 5th Pillar's efforts to fight bribery by giving people, especially the extremely poor, zero rupee notes to hand over when a bribe is solicited. There are three significant differences between the zero rupee note and the 50 rupee note: the denomination goes from 50 to 0 (obviously); it is printed on only one side; and the 0 rupee note includes a phrase that the bearer “promises to neither accept nor give a bribe” in place of a claim of legal tender.

Seriously, what is not to like about this? It takes the struggle directly to the people who are most seriously harmed by graft, making it a wonderful act of solidarity with the poor; it does so with a powerful appeal to conscience; it works without government intervention; it's remarkably inexpensive; there are (as yet) NO reports of it not working; and it doesn't get anyone in trouble.

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