July 09, 2006

Culture Clash in a Nutshell and Parking Tickets as Diagnosis Tool

Yesterday's Washington Times editorial contains highly interesting, but not very surprising, cross-cultural news:
Corruption is a state of mind
July 8, 2006

Here's an unexpectedly telling window into poor governance in the Third World: the Egyptian or Chadian diplomat who racks up hundreds of parking tickets. As the Web site danieldrezner.com reports, two American economists recently discovered in New York City ticket records from 1997 to 2002 demonstrating that diplomats from the world's most corrupt governments also tend to be the likeliest to scoff at New York's parking rules. If ever there were social-scientific evidence that bad behavior in government may be a state of mind, not just a set of bad incentives or institutions, this is it.
Diplomats from African and Middle Eastern countries dominate the list of repeat offenders. Of the 20 worst scofflaw missions, 17 represented countries in those regions. Kuwaitis were by far the worst, with an average of 246 tickets per diplomat over five years. Egyptians and Chadians were second- and third-worst with 140 and 124, respectively. Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Sudan were also top-20 offenders (The three countries outside the regions were No. 5 Bulgaria, No. 7 Albania and No. 20 Serbia and Montenegro). With a few exceptions, these countries occupy the lower ranks of Transparency International's 2005 International Corruption Perceptions Index, a leading world benchmark for disreputable government.

Interestingly, the most rule-observant diplomats tended to hail from democratic countries in other parts of the world. Twenty-two countries, including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Colombia, Israel, Japan and Sweden, did not incur a single recorded ticket in New York during the period of study. Italy, Spain and France were notable exceptions. Their respective totals of 15, 13 and six tickets per diplomat place them in the middle with countries like Libya, the Philippines and Rwanda.
"You don't like rules? Ignore them! They don't apply to you." Obeying rules and thus respecting other people's rights is so much a matter of course for most of us that we are helpless and puzzled when they are NOT obeyed and we are searching for a sound, sane and understandable reason. The perpetrator must be sick, insane, frustrated, anything not to accept the fact that some people wilfully disobey rules and that Evil with a capital "E" simply exists.

What applies to greater issues, for example the crimes committed in the name of Islam all over the world because its followers are, according to their lemming apologists in the West, poor and disadvantaged ARE comparable to those New York parking tickets that are clocked up because those diplomats are poor and disadvantaged... Oh well, maybe not.

What is civilised countries' criminal behaviour is other countries standard.

Here is the link to the entry at Daniel Drezner's EXCELLENT blog (which I have blogrolled).

Here is the link to the original paper Cultures of Corruption: Evidence from Diplomatic Parking Tickets.

Thanks to Billlll G. for the tip!