Corruption is valuable in a Democracy

The Need For Corruption


Why should a democratic society be corrupt? This is, of course, a philosophical question and needs to be answered at a back table in a bar, over a pitcher of beer and some pretzels. The more logical question is: why is a democratic society corrupt?

The need for corruption stems directly from the fabric of the democratic society, which creates a constant flow of new laws. By its very nature the election of a congress or parliament will lead to a profusion of laws and ordinances. After all, it isn’t likely that a senator could stand for reelection on the platform that things were so great in the country that no new laws needed to be passed. No. Any illusion by the electorate that congress sat around all day discussing the baseball scores could lead to a rather distasteful appraisal of whether legislators were really needed at all.

Therefore, because we elect representatives, they have to prove that they’re doing something to earn their paychecks, and so, they pass a bunch of laws. One might add at this point that most of these representatives are lawyers to begin with,[1]  leading to an unpleasant feeling that the passage of all these laws may represent a conflict of interest. After all they are uninterpretable by any standards except to the remaining partners in the congressman’s law firm.

Laws serve a number of purposes, in addition to giving the appearance that congress is working, and providing employment for a large segment of the legal profession. By their very nature they are restrictive. Things usually work out all right ( after all we arrived here through several hundred thousand years of human existence without laws) until laws are passed. Then we have a whole host of regulations about usage, restrictions, directions, new definitions, etc., which in the long run tend to screw things up. Corruption, therefore, serves as a means of circumventing these laws and getting things back on the right track.

An embarrassing question comes up: If the representatives really wanted to do a good job, why don’t they pass laws that don’t do anything?

Answer: The motives of the corruptor are pure and noble — to facilitate a better life for everyone in this society, but for the coruptee, although his is an integral role in the procedure, he pockets a bit of cash with the deal. This is not all bad since it guarantees that only fine minds and talented people will apply for those jobs that offer the best chances to be corrupted, and it relieves the tax burden.

But one wonders if some laws aren’t passed in order to provide an opportunity for corruption to occur.

Judging the system as a whole, however, one must admit that works well, — if it didn’t all the lawyers would have to become doctors, and God knows we’ve got too many of them already!

Therefore in summary :

  1. The people have to be represented in government or they get very upset.
  2. The representatives have to do something for a living so they pass laws.
  3. Corruption is necessary to bypass the laws so the society can function properly.

[1].Seventy two and two thirds of our current congress are lawyers. The fractions represent a number who failed to pass the bar exam. J. Congressional Stats. 1998,Vol.2: pp219 -220



Sam Cohen hated furtiveness. As he quietly climbed the dark staircase he thought of his intense efforts all his life to be honest, open, frank and explicit with all of his business acquaintances, wife and children. He remembered his wife’s stinging glances as she drank her gin and tonic, when he told his sixteen year old daughter that sex was not all that bad. (This elicited an immediate demand for an extension of her curfew to 2:00 A.M.) If she gets knocked up I suppose I’ll get blamed for that too he thought. His wife tried to counter the argument by indicating that sex was not all that good either, which made Sam flinch. However, the gleam in his daughter=s eye reasserted his role as the authoritative figure in the household.

A small sixty watt bulb lit his way to the top of the stairs. what shit, he thought, I’m finally reaching a stage in life when I can relax and this crap has to happen. He felt the stab of pain around his hemorrhoids  Oh he groaned, what shit.

The narrow hallway led to several doors constructed of pitted wood as if they were meant to be a set in an old Sam Spade movie. Above one he noticed the name clearly imprinted on the glass: C.K. Chang, Lawyer.

What an understatement. Chang was the right hand man of the mayor — decision maker, advisor, contact man. What the hell was he doing in a place like this?

Sam entered the small office. A short blonde girl with a 36D cup was seated at an oak veneer decrepit desk. A 4 by 3 foot Picasso print hung on the wall immediately behind her with several scattered Utrillo prints of April showers on a Parisian street.

“You are expected, Mr. Cohen”, she said. Her desk was bare except for a phone and a yellow scratch pad.

No typing required, thought Sam. His wife was wrong as usual.

C.K. sat at an enlarged version of his secretary’s desk in a room that was painted totally brown, with bare walls. Next to the desk was a wooden folding chair which was obviously meant for visitors. A façade, thought Sam who had seen Chang in his city hall office surrounded by drapes, oriental statues, and flat chested secretaries. Clearly, this office was meant to intimidate, to create an atmosphere of power. A respected businessman stooping to visit this atrocity of a business office would be acutely aware of his own impotence in the face of government.

Sam approached the chair facing Chang and noticed immediately the small round cushion with the hole in the center.  He even knows about my hemorrhoids, what efficiency. 

“Mr. Cohen, what can I do for you?”

Bastard thought Cohen as he felt the stab of pain in his anus. Twelve months without a sitzbath and now this. “Mr. Chang as you know, I’m a recent visitor to this part of the world and have operated a small business here for three years. Success has followed our opening and we have been trying to expand into a neighboring building. A number of strange occurrences have prompted my visit to see if we can facilitate our expansion. That is, whether you can help.”

“Ah yessss”, hissed Chang, “I am aware of your attempted expansion, and as you know the government is delighted to see the investment and expansion of capital into the deprived areas of our city.”

A pain in the ass, thought Sam, the entire thing is a pain in the ass.

” I appreciate the efficiency of your city government,” said Sam, “but I have run into certain problems which I’ve been advised to see you about.”

“Perhaps if you reviewed these with me it might be possible to — ah — see if anything can be done.”

“Well as you know we are expanding our business into a neighboring building. This, of course, requires the installation of new electrical wiring, plumbing, and so forth. In addition I was told that our help will demand a local toilet, although for the life of me I don’t see why they can’t walk next door.”

“Well, who can account for the tastes of individuals”, replied Chang. “Since private toilets appeared in our community, there is no satisfying the demands of labor.”

“Of course,” continued Sam, “there’s carpentry work, reconstruction of rooms, moving of furniture, which must be finished by a specific time if we’re going to expand and still make money.”

“Ah yes, I understand,” said Chang, “but certainly this can all be worked out. You must have allocated these responsibilities to expert help.”

“Absolutely,” replied Sam, “we hired Donovan and Sons to do all the work and they’ve supervised the designs, made all the arrangement, gotten the materials and permits and so forth. But there have been a series of unusual occurrences.”

“Perhaps you can be more specific?”

“Well two weeks ago I asked for a sanitation department special pickup for twelve cartons of trash lined up behind our present building. Last week as our plumbers unloaded their material the sanitation truck appeared and hauled away three toilets, two water coolers, and a bidet requested by the secretary of one of our senior partners. The trash is still there.”

“How unfortunate,” mused Chang, ” I am sure that can be rectified.”

“In addition, our electrical supplier arrived Wednesday to coordinate the wiring of our new addition and within ten minutes his truck with all his tools was towed away for illegal parking.”

“But surely you must recognize the necessity for keeping traffic moving on the city streets.”

“I know, I know, but he was parked in our parking lot — which, by the way, has received a notice of condemnation for having an  entrance onto the city streets without a permit.”

“Oh dear, ” said Chang,  “city ordinance 12A-32 again– we must do something about that.”

“It is apparent” said Cohen, squirming slightly in his cushioned chair, “that the only parking lots which are permissible are those that have no entrances or exits.”

“I admit that this may seem like a strange regulation”, said Chang, “but the parking lot industry is very powerful in this city.”

“Then came the sewer department” Sam was really getting warmed up now, “For some ungodly reason it appeared that our furniture delivery service truck was parked over a proposed sewer site.”

“Surely”, said Chang, “a small problem. Easily solved by moving the truck a few feet either way.”

“Not so simple ” indicated Cohen, shifting his weight directly onto his right buttock. (In past years this had been responsible for the development of left hip pain, which in conjunction with his hemorrhoids led to an unusual position during movement of his bowels. His wife saw this once when she entered the bathroom looking for a hair dryer and entertained some unexplainable suspicion whenever Sam complained of anal pain thereafter.)

Sam continued, “It’s the way we were notified that made things difficult. We were moving a desk to the second floor of the new building when we heard a resounding crash. People were rushing into the streets from all directions but there was no truck when we came downstairs. Only a large hole in the ground. It cost me four hundred dollars to hire a crane and retrieve the truck, and now I’m being sued for two late deliveries and obstructing a sewer.”

“Ah yes, you do seem to have a few problems,” replied Chang. “It would seem that you are in need of a contractor.”

“But we have Donovan and Sons. Aren’t they licensed by the city? Surely they’ve built many projects in town. They’re large and well respected” Sam was firing at fever pitch by now.

“All of that, all of that, Mr. Cohen. And in addition they are of the proper political persuasion.”

As Chang talked Cohen became aware of the orientation of the oriental. The room was lit by a single central chandelier with two bulbs missing from its six sockets. Adds to the degradation, Cohen thought. The brown walls reflected little of the light so that Chang sat facing him in semi darkness. But he was alive in his discourse on politics. Rimless glasses accented and enlarged his slanting eyes, wrinkling against the reflected light as he moved his hand from side to side.

“You see, those of us who have attained political power have struggled throughout the ranks of the discontented, the job seekers, the vote getters, the hangers -on. We paid our dues in obedience and hard work to attain an element of power. It is our job to make things run, and we mean to see that they don’t run without us. Otherwise the system breaks down. Who would take a job as an assistant Commissioner of Buildings but an inefficient malcontent? We have developed a more perfect system to guarantee efficiency by making the rewards satisfy the requirements of the job.”

“Couldn’t you just ask for a raise?” said Cohen. He was sorry immediately.

“Cohen, you must surely understand that nobody gives a damn what an assistant commissioner makes. The average person might grumble about paying a few cents more for a loaf of bread, – he just passes on the costs to his customers if he’s in business, or through his union to his boss, who then passes it on to his customers. Everyone pays a little more and makes a little more and the system looks great. But a raise in salary to a city official would have to be passed on as an increase taxes!  You can tell your customers that your costs are high, – that they understand. But try to increase their income taxes to pay our salaries and see what they say about that.

How could you argue with such logic? thought Cohen. He was already figuring how the new building would increase his prices. – Actually with a few cents extra he could make a neat profit. So it will cost a few dollars more…

“The political system and the economic system are intertwined. They each work for the mutual efficiency and satisfaction of all.”

The little china man had all the answers. Cohen could feel his bulbous hemorrhoid receding. He felt better already. In fact he was somewhat relieved to have the course of events safely in the hands of one who understood the system so well.

“Cohen, you need a contractor!”

“But I already have a contractor. What am I going to do with Donovan and his Goddamn sons?”

“You still don’t understand. Donovan does his job, and he does it well. After all he has a lot of experience. He builds the building, gets the plumbers, the electricians, but you need a contractor for the others.”

“The others?”

“Of course. The sanitation department, the sewer department, the traffic department. I am offering the services of a political contractor who will handle the whole job.”

“For how much?”

“Ten percent of the entire cost is the usual fee. I believe the addition is going to run in the neighborhood of four hundred thousand dollars. That will be forty thousand dollars.”

With a bit of fast addition Cohen could see that this wasn’t too bad. After all Donovan had wanted four twenty for the job and after hard bargaining he had gotten the lower price. Suppose he had been a schlemiel and paid the four twenty – so its close to the same thing.

” Of course we have a special package that includes the inspectors.”

“The inspectors?”

“Well you have to be inspected by the Building Department, the Health Department, the Fire Department…”

“Oh my God.” The rectal pain started over again and Cohen’s hip began to act up. “How much?”

“Well it’s not too bad… It will cost an additional five percent, but this is a special package that will pay for itself.”

“Pay for itself?” Cohen began to feel foolish for repeating the successive statements of Chang, but he couldn’t seem to help himself.

“You see, in this package we include the City Assessor. The new assessment rate will increase your property taxes by seven thousand dollars a year. We will arrange to lower your assessment to three thousand additional a year. In five years the added package is paid off. After that we’ll see.”

If efficiency was a criterion of good government Cohen would have cast his vote with Chang at that moment. Amazing, he thought. This guy has everything figured out. The rewards of the office of assistant Commissioner became painfully evident. Cohen thought of all the building going on in the city – what a deal – no wonder this guy worked so hard to get to this position. Cohen reached for his checkbook: A I suppose the blonde outside is the cashier?”

“Oh no , no – you will be notified as to where and how to provide payment.”

Cohen sat back for a moment and sighed deeply. He”d moved from Iowa to this – He glanced slowly at Chang, amazed at the way the system was organized. The China man at the center of the operation seemed appropriate to all he had heard and read about Asian societies. The dollar opened doors everywhere, but why the hell did I have to move to Cincinnati?

Chang extended his hand. The meeting was over.

Cohen rose and with the usual formalities started to back toward the door. His hemorrhoid fully receded, he was prepared to face the prospects of expanded business. “What a system”, he thought.

He was part way through the door when he turned slowly and faced Chang. “About the twelve cartons of trash…”

“Oh that,” said Chang, ” Just slip the sanitation driver twenty bucks.”