Sunday, December 12, 2010

Quotation for the day: Tom Vanderbilt

[C]orruption itself can cause traffic problems, the sort that represents a drain on economic growth, not an outcome.  Take, for example, the myriad roadblocks that are a daily fact of life in many developing countries.  The process typically has little to do with vehicle inspection or safety and a lot to do with police or soldiers trying to extract something "for the boys."  Corruption does not speed a driver's way through some bureaucratic tangle; rather, the tangle is formed because of corruption.

In some places, these systems are so entrenched that they can take on the logic of an economic system, a kind of "corruption pricing" instead of "congestion pricing."  A study of bribes that Indonesian truckers had to pay at military checkpoints showed that the closer the truckers got to their destination, the higher the bribe.  (The officials also charged more for newer trucks and trucks carrying valuable cargo.)  When the number of checkpoints dropped after the military scaled back its forces, the average bribe per checkpoint increased, leaving researchers to conclude that fewer traffic officials may be better...
Tom Vanderbilt, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008) 238-9.
[US Army photo of road checkpoint in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, June 24, 2007:]

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