‘The big education for me is that civilisation is fragile and can be destroyed in a heartbeat' - Jeremy Brade, former peacekeeper in Sarajevo.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

The camshaft bribe

From Wikipedia
Computer animation of a camshaft operating valves

A well-worn issue this, but still worth asking in the interests of clarity.

Decades ago, someone I knew had a camshaft problem on his car a few days before he was due to get married. Specialist work was required and there was a backlog, but the car was essential for the honeymoon. What to do?

Well he simply went round to the workshop and offered twenty pounds to the guy in charge, which was a reasonable bribe in those days.

“You’re next,” was the response and all went well.

So if an NHS patient sees an NHS consultant and opts for private treatment by that same consultant, is that pretty much the same type of queue-jumping bribe? Legally it isn’t bribery and probably the camshaft issue wasn't either, but should we see both examples as bribery to the extent of calling them bribery?

Or are they merely examples of markets doing their stuff and paying for a better service is perfectly okay? 

To my mind, many forms of legal bribery are endemic in the UK, but so is evasive language. The NHS illustration is entirely legal of course, but in effect NHS consultants accept queue-jumping bribes. Why not say so?

It's good to be explicit isn't it? 

But would I use money to jump the queue if a loved happened to be faced with a long wait for an essential operation to resolve a painful or debilitating condition?


Does that make me corrupt? Maybe, or maybe it is only a rational response to an imperfect world. Yet I would not shy away from the word bribe if it came up. 

So does explicit language leave us with a better situation or a worse? 


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Sackerson said...

Been there, done that, see comment thread here:


A K Haart said...

Sackers - I have seen similar family issues to yours and although I never thought of it as bribery, I was never quite comfortable with what we did even though I'd do it again.

Maybe the difference lies in taxation. Taxable bribes are not bribes at all.

Paddington said...

How about renting a disabled child to get to the front of the lines at Disney? Rich New Yorkers are apparently doing this, as well as paying students to take tests and write essays for their children on college entrance requirements.

A K Haart said...

Paddington - yes, I think petty and not so petty corruption is more common than we'll ever know.

Presumably paying students to take tests and write essays for the children of rich New Yorkers is potentially worth a lot of money to those children in later life and is not petty corruption at all.