Tuesday, July 24, 2012

In-corruptible in the absence of law.

Why should we refrain from corruption?

Is it because of legal consequences? Or is it because of being wary of  pissing off some supernatural being who monitors our every deed?

Or is it simply because we know it is ethically the right thing to do?

Corruption is a major factor impeding economic development in developing countries, but the importance of legal enforcement versus cultural norms in controlling corruption is poorly understood. In 2006 a simple study was undertaken to understand cultural attitudes towards corruption. And what better place than the United Nations, where  thousands of diplomats from more than 146 countries have immunity. Which also means they cannot be arrested or served warrants for traffic offences. Offenders are expected to pay fines and penalties voluntarily.

This gave an excellent opportunity for Ray Fisman and Edward Miguel to study attitudes of individuals towards the law when it's enforcement was absent.
The act of parking illegally fits remarkably well with a standard definition of corruption, i.e., “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain,”2 suggesting that the comparison of parking violations by diplomats from different societies serves as a credible measure of the extent of corruption cultural norms.
The findings were interesting. Some societies have a much casual attitude towards corruption and these attitudes reflected in the results. 

Between 1992 and 2002 Kuwait ranked the highest with 246.2 unpaid parking tickets per diplomat, they had 9 diplomats. Pakistan was ranked 10th,  India was way below at 79th with 6.1 tickets for 18 diplomats.

What was most interesting was diplomats from countries with low corruption rates had lower number of unpaid parking tickets and diplomats behaved in almost the same manner as government  officials in their home country. 

I believe that our cultures mould our attitudes towards corruption. No amount of laws can change attitudes. Attitudes  can only be changed with awareness and education. 


Controlling corruption with legal enforcement without change in the attitudes will be infeasible for developing nations. 


The full research paper is available from  here. Cultures of Corruption: Evidence from Diplomatic Parking Tickets









3 comments:

  1. Both India and Mexico are generally considered to be places with rampant corruption. It is a bit surprising that their ranking is very low.

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