THE ENCYCLOPEDIA GALACTICA
CORRUPTION, BRIBES AND 'GIFTS'
The rise of the Galactic Administration (GA) as the main power broker in the Solar System brought with it a steady increase in corruption and bribery.
There had always been some small scale bribery under the Ming regime, but it was kept in check by Emperor Ming who regarded being bribed as his prerogative. Significant corruption by others was regarded as theft from Ming's exchequer, and retribution was swift and usually fatal.
As is normal when you have poorly paid officials and obscure, convoluted rules, bribery soon became endemic and spread from officialdom to other areas of life. In truth, GA petty officials are so poorly paid that bribes constitute a significant portion of their income. Higher level officials - who accept larger bribes - turn a blind eye.
Recently the situation has got so bad that there have been proposals to stop employing staff as such and to sell benefices and institute tax farming. The proposed system is similar to that used by the churches and monarchs in the Earth pre-atomic (medieval) era. In the event, this proposal caused such outcry that it was quietly dropped. Undoubtedly it will reappear at sometime in the future when things seem more auspicious!
What is true, however, is that there has become a quasi-institutional system of 'gifts' which lays down what can be used for higher level bribes and what you get for your 'gift'. For lower level bribes, a few hundred groats are usually sufficient.
The usual currency for larger bribes is a small collection of highly prized alien species only found on the planet Snark in Hilbert Space. Not only is the planet hard to get to, but the animals are extremely difficult to even spot, let alone capture.
Apart from their rarity, the animals have one very unusual characteristic. If you put two of the same animals together all but the biggest will merge to form a completely different species. There is a technical process by which they can be forced to separate again, but the details are beyond the scope of this article.
The smallest animal is called a slithy tove. Two slithy toves combine to form a mimsy borogove, two mimsy borogoves make a mome rath, and finally two mome raths become a frumious bandersnatch. Bandersnatchii do not combine. Slithy toves are the basic units of 'gifts'.
Thus we have:
1 frumious bandersnatch = 8 slithy toves
1 mome rath = 4 slithy toves
1 mimsy borogove = 2 slithy toves
The size of a bribe can expressed in either slithy toves or the larger animals, as preferred.
The animals themselves have unusual environmental requirements and are kept in a special restricted area of the Earth mini-zoo. Their owners carry certificates of ownership, which are similar to bearer bonds in that the ownership belongs to whoever currently holds the certificate. This makes the certificates untraceable, and very useful to hand over as bribes.
One interesting aspect of the bribe system is that you don't need high level bribes for the basics, only for luxuries and items that make work easier. Thus, you don't need a high level bribe to become a merchant, but you will need one to get a permit for warehouse building, which serves to make life easier for merchants!