No-one with experience of the former Communist countries of Eastern Europe (or memories of pre-Thatcher Britain) will be surprised by these stories. If valuable privileges can be given or witheld by officials, corruption is inevitable.
In 1970's London, developers could wait months for telephone connections to their new office buildings, or they could pay off the Post Office engineers. The choice was to lose hundreds of thousands in rent, or tens of thousands in bribes.
When we lived in Poland, the police threatened to strike for higher pay. The government chose instead to give them discretion over the amount of fines, depending on the value of the car. Stopped for speeding in your Mercedes you were inevitably offered the choice of being fined as a FIAT, if you would just dispense with the receipt.
In today's Moscow every time-saving illegal turn in a city jammed with traffic has a price. Wind the window down, hold the banknote out for the policeman and he will deftly snatch it; you don't even need to stop. I am told you can buy "season tickets", priced according to the laws you want to break.
I predict there will be more and more such stories in Britain as Blair's New Labour and now, sadly, Cameron's New New Labour, take us further down the path of an over-mighty State. Every time we assume the moral superiority of the State; every time we propose new regulation so that its guardians can prevent this or that abuse, we need to ask Juvenal's ancient question, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"
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