ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Micro-primer on Corruption

If you are caught in the act, just deny it.

This is EPW in an introspective mood at the end of the year. Just look at us. From issue to issue, we plod our lumbering way from kernel density functions to the labyrinthine by-lanes of postmodern prose, from stern Notes and Commentaries to sterner Perspectives and Editorials, from the dry tabulation of data to their even drier interpretation. When we are not wagging our finger at the world, we are boring the world’s pants off with our laboured turgidities. Where is the family in any of this, where the tiniest space for caring and sharing, where the possibility of offering to parents something with which they can inspire and ennoble their offspring? Occasionally, at least, should this weekly not make an effort to reach out with hope and promise to the needs of the next generation, with positive and encouraging little tracts for the times that reflect the manners and morals and mores of the contemporary world? The thought emboldens us to try our hand at writing a helpful little primer on one of the most pressing requirements of success and achievement in the modern world—corruption. Parents who read aloud pieces such as the present one every night at bedtime to their moppets might expect the latter to display a marked improvement in their attitudes and conduct, to take rapid strides towards achieving an irredeemably hard-boiled unprincipledness.

One could begin by instructing children on the virtues of corruption by quoting to them from Joseph Heller’s Catch-22: “From now on I’m thinking only of me.” Major Danby replied indulgently with a superior smile: “But, Yossarian, suppose everyone felt that way?” “Then,” said Yossarian, “I’d certainly be a damned fool to feel any other way, wouldn’t I?” It might be added for the benefit of the children (if they haven’t already cottoned on to it, the devious little things), that Yossarian would be an even bigger damned fool to feel any other way if nobody was thinking only about themselves. To feel as Yossarian does constitutes what the infants will recognise, after they have become trained economists, as a dominant strategy equilibrium. Not that they should be required to draw pay-off matrices every time they do something self-seeking and anti-social: these things should become second nature, and come instinctively to them, just as it will come instinctively to them to steer their BMWs against the traffic lights without their having to solve a set of complicated differential equations in order to understand the dynamics of their vehicles’ motion (much less the morals of their behaviour, guided as it is by inter-temporal utility-maximisation).

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