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Drunk on Corruption

For millions of Russians corruption is the normal way of life. If you don't want your son drafted into the army, pay off a military registrar and he will cross your son's name off the list or bribe a doctor to file an "unfit for military duty" certificate.

My friend Boris was leaving my house drunk. So I suggested that he not drive. He asked why. "You are under the influence," I said. "Aren't you afraid of the police?" "No," Boris replied, "I have a document with Benjamin Franklin's face on it. This always helps me." He showed me his driver's license with a $100-dollar bill tucked beside it.

Obviously, I knew that the police take bribes, but was concerned that Boris might bump into one who wasn't corrupt. "No way," argued Boris. "To be a traffic policeman you must pay off your boss. If you don't take bribes, how can you pay off the boss? Half of Moscow's drivers use licenses bought illegally. Idiots who try to do things honestly drown in bureaucratic minutia. Pay $100 bucks and you can drive around with no brakes!"

Bribery and embezzlement have always existed in Russia, before Lenin's October Revolution and after. But never at so titanic a level as today. Bribes are taken by everyone, everywhere, and for everything. Only those not offered bribes, said Boris, don't take them.

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