Hotel di Garut - Tipping is something you do after you receive good service as a courteous gesture to the service provider to indicate that you received good service. You do it in restaurants, hotels, bars, and taxis. Bribing, on the other hand, is considered illegal and unethical. In North American culture (actually, in American and Canadian culture) bribing is seen as something you do when you want a situation to go your way and you need to grease the wheels to make it happen.
In other cultures though, including Mexican culture, bribing is an acceptable part of the exchange of service. While it may not be acknowledged as a bribe, and may even be denied verbally as it is being accepted, a bribe is a way in other cultures to help get action, even among authorities.
Taking the higher road in some cases may not be the best situation. If you are pulled over for trumped up charges in a South American country, the best thing you may want to do is to pass some money to the person who has pulled you over to let you go.
The reason this is an acceptable part of the structure is because in many countries where bribing is acceptable the countries in question may be socially, politically, or economically unstable and thus are not able to properly pay the wages of the police, soldier, or public servant you are encountering. You may complain about your bills but at the end of the day, your wage generally puts food on the table. Not so in these countries where a wage may barely pay for a month's worth of food but there are no opportunities for a better job. In this way, bribery is built into the system as an almost legitimate way to earn enough to feed the family.
So when you find yourself in a difficult situation in a country that is not your own, put yourself in the other person's shoes and think about how they are trying to make a living under less fortunate circumstances.