I could not give this article a better heading, but I wanna promise one thing to the reader this will blow off all your ideas about “human nature” being responsible for the corruption and filthiness in India.
Why is India Corrupt?
Why corruption exists? In a simple line I can summarize the whole answer and that is “corruption exists because it makes people’s lives better”.
Let me come directly to the example part. Lets say in Indian law society the government passes a law that all the restaurants must use gold utensils(silverware made of actual gold). The plates in which they serve must be made from Gold, the government may have whatever reasons they think its important for the people to use gold utensils. For the sake of example just presume the government made this law for what they think is good for the people.
What do you think would be the consequences of this law? Would restaurants in India will really start following such a law? Lets take the honest and the dishonest restaurants one by one.
A few restaurants who would be honest enough to comply with these regulations would go out and buy golden utensils, but to cover the costs of those utensils they will have to raise the prices of their utensils. So a regular tea which costs about Rs 5/- in any restaurant in India would cost about Rs 500/- in a golden cup and saucer. It cannot be reasonably expected that people in India would start paying Rs 500/- for a cup of tea. The overall consequences of this would be that the restaurant will soon go out of business.
Now lets take a look at the dishonest restaurants which did not bother to comply with the regulation. Whenever the inspectors from the food department come around they bribed then to ignore the violation of the law. Since they did not bother to buy gold utensils, the prices of food in their restaurant are marginally higher(the bribe increased the costs). So a cup of regular tea costs about Rs 6/- in such a restaurant. It is quite reasonable to expect that people will be more than willing to drink coffee and eat from this restaurant than from the honest restaurant(where the food costs 100 times than this one).
Overall any restaurant which tries to be honest will be wiped out of the business. Whose fault can we say this would be? Clearly the government’s fault which passed such a law. In fact it would be stupid to assume that ANY restaurant would be complying with this law. Now lets take a look at a more real world scenario.
In real world the government does not pass a law about using gold plates, rather it passes a law about using only plastic plates in the restaurants for hygienic purposes. Using plastic plates could be more hygienic but its also more expensive, on the other hand using washed(often poorly) china or metallic plates might be unhygienic but it would also be more cheap.
Whenever food department inspection happens, most of the restaurants prefer to bribe the inspector to overlook at all the violations because the lower costs and continual business tells the restaurant owners one thing and that is “People WANT cheaper unhygienic food, over expensive hygienic food”.
In fact the golden plates law is so stupid that even food inspectors will not bother to ask anyone to follow this regulation.
Democracy can go to hell, people WANT cheap food, thereby implying that they prefer reused dishes over clean disposable dishes, so they are ordering the restaurant owner to somehow keep the prices low. Therefore indirectly people WANT the food department inspectors to be bribed.
In richer societies like America people can afford to follow all the stupid rules and regulations and still pay the higher food costs, but expecting those kinds of standards in India would be really stupid.
Why is India so dirty?
Again just like the previous issue, its not because “Indian people are just too dirty and they have no regard for cleanliness”, India is so dirty because people prefer to live in that dirty environment than to clean things up and increase the cost of everything around them.
Lets again take an example. Lets say there are two convenience stores(Kirana shops) one is kept very clean, everything very tidy, and its located in a clean well maintained shopping complex. The other one is located in the middle of the regular flea market, its very messy, dirty and its surroundings are really unkept.
The tidy convenience store
The store which is located on a very well maintained shopping complex and is kept very tidy. It has a guard standing on its door, it uses electronic bar code system to keep track of prices and products. The store is always staffed with enough people, and it has achieved all that by spending money on the maintenance of the shop. This causes the store owner to increase the prices of his store products. 1 Kg of Sugar might be available for Rs 15/- on this shop.
The untidy, unkept convenience store
The other store which is located in the middle of a crowded flea market does not spend any money on the maintenance of the shop. This enables him to keep the prices of his store low. 1 Kg of Sugar is available for Rs 10/- in this shop. Where do you think the customers in India will go to?
Its clear that the tidy store will either go out of business or will do very little business because people will prefer to go to the messier dirty shop, because they prefer to buy the Sugar at Rs 10/-. This thing tells all the convenience store owners ONE thing, that Indian consumers don’t care for cleanliness as much as they care for cheaper prices. So the market rewards people to reduce their maintenance costs and reduce the core prices of the services and commodities.
Any public service place in India would be only as clean as its owner personally would like to do the effort of keeping it clean. A small shop would be kept much more clean because only one guy operates in it. A larger shop can cut its costs by reducing the cost on the maintenance.
Only one thing can be concluded from both these reasonings, and that is you can never beat the market. Its the market which will not follow the stupid laws because a politician may not be having the welfare of everyone in his mind, but the Market always wants to serve the maximum number of people in the best possible way.
People in India are not corrupt, they pay through their way because it enables their live through the mess of the government hinderance created at every step. They are no more or less corrupt than Americans in nature. Its just that in America people can afford to follow all the rules and regulations(though the sheet is being stretched too far with the latest assaults on free market and all the scapegoating of the free market and lack of regulations).
Similarly, people in India are not dirty, or unclean, they prefer untidiness over cleanliness because it enables them to buy more products and make their lives better. If Americans tomorrow stop paying the huge maintenance costs of the big departmental stores they will be able to save more money, thereby invest more money and thereby make themselves richer.