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

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Gift or Bribe?

What distinguishes the delightful act of gift-bearing from the crime of giving a bribe?

When one talks of corruption in public life, there are two primary evils that steal the show: bribery and nepotism. Nepotism is a soggy terrain because the king’s daughter may as well be the best warrior in the kingdom and thus deserves to lead the army. Bribery, in contrast, hand has no benefit of such equivocation; it is universally considered wrong and immoral.

One is often confronted with the dilemma of whether to accept gifts in the course of discharging duty. So, can a gift be seen as a bribe? The definitions of “gift” and “bribe” do not merit a description here. Everyone apparently understands what they mean, especially the difference between the two. However, in public life, the line that differentiates the two is very thin, indeed blurred. This dilemma finds its best expression in the custom of bearing gifts during the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. There is a long-standing tradition of offering delicious moon cakes as gifts among family and friends; as we do on Diwali. At face value, it is innocuous and, in fact, quite heartwarming. The primary ingredients required in the preparation of moon cakes are generally inexpensive. However, when such baked items are studded with exotic fruits imported from the other side of the globe at exorbitantly high rates, it raises eyebrows. Economist dubbed the otherwise humble delicacy as the controversial pastry after it became typically associated with bribery. So ubiquitous was the practice that the Chinese government had to formally issue warnings against it. What degree of opulence in gifting is permissible, so that it is precluded from being a bribe, is a matter of social and philosophical enquiry.

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Updated On : 13th Nov, 2021
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