Economies of scale gone wrong

Ah, money. Is there a more interesting topic in the world, other than sex or Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, I mean. Mind you, either of those subjects can be reduced to money without enormous effort.

My favourite money story this week relates to a team of drug-dealers’ associates trying to bribe a US judge. The story is at http://www.canada.com/story_print.html?id=8878483&sponsor. Don’t read it until you have answered the question below.

The gents involved were associated, the story says, with Los Zetas drug cartel. They had been up to no good on behalf of the cartel, and were caught. They formulated a plan to bribe a US judge into giving them a lighter sentence than the law might require.

The bribe didn’t happen, and the men were charged with trying to commit bribery. So far, so not very financial.

Here’s a question for you: how much did the men offer the judge as a bribe? Remember now, this is a giant drug cartel that presumably makes boatloads of money. Los Zetas is considered by the US Government to be the “most technologically advanced, sophisticated, and dangerous cartel operating in Mexico”.

They offered the judge $1 million. I think that’s a scream.

First, let me state that I am dead set against bribing judges, or anyone official. Give a guy an extra $20 to speed things up at the carwash, sure. But judges, no.

What makes me laugh is that these bozos tried to save a little money on the bribe. The cartel probably has untold billions. A bribe of say half-a-billion dollars wouldn’t have dented Los Zetas’ financial statements, and even the least corrupt among us would have to pause for a second if offered $500 million.

The cartel probably has very little understanding of anything outside its immediate activities. When you murder people and enslave others all day long, your view of people’s value must be skewed, to say the least.

The moral here is: if you’re going to do something, take the advice of the white rabbit “start at the beginning and go on until you’re done and then stop”.  And if you really must bribe public officials, go big or go home. Judges like a bit of respect, they do.

The same is true of opinion columnists, by the way. Obviously, I’d say anything for a buck and a half-eaten sandwich, but if you want to bribe me, the price is $500 million in used notes. OK, $400 million, but not a penny less.

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