Violence and the Costs of Honesty: Rethinking bureaucrats’ choice to take bribes
Explanations for bureaucrats’ decisions to take bribes have evolved from accounts of incentives to focusing on expectations of others’ behavior. However, there are plausibly more considerations when making such choices in contexts of widespread violence, where refusal to take bribes may be associated with high costs. Yet, current insight into this topic is limited. This article investigates how violence upholds bribery through interviews with South African officials that enforce resource regulations in communities where gangs run poaching operations. The findings suggest that while citizens commonly give bribes to enable rule violations, this is a process of both temptations and threats: officials that do not take bribes face violent intimidations by citizens and corrupt col-leagues. Through reducing direct costs in such settings, bribe taking is partly a strategy of social protection. This suggests that, besides incentives and expectations, administrative reforms may benefit from ‘fixing the security’ of bureaucrats in violent contexts.
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