home court advantage

Unpaid diplomatic parking tickets as index of national corruption

"Cultures of Corruption: Evidence From Diplomatic Parking Tickets," is a paper by Columbia's Ray Fisman and UC Berkeley's Edward Miguel that investigates the number of unpaid diplomatic parking tickets by country to formulate an index of each country's corruption. Diplomats don't pay parking fines, so the only reason for diplomats to follow the law is conscience and respect for the rule of law.
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46 Responses:

  1. edouardp says:

    The Economist version of the story from a couple of months ago: http://www.economist.com/world/na/displaystory.cfm?story_id=7281145

  2. decibel45 says:

    Can we please just kick the UN off our soil for once and for all?

    • skington says:

      The Economist article notes that the US Embassy refuses to pay the London congestion charge, claiming it's a tax. (London Mayor Ken Livingstone says it's a service, i.e. it costs so much to be able to drive around inner London during peak hours, because otherwise the whole place would be gridlocked.)

      • cjensen says:

        Dear Mr. Chinese Ambassador, driving on the street in front of your embassy now costs $10,000 per incident because we have designated the street a "preferred bike route." You owe us ten brazillion dollars, Love New York City.

        Certain countries (hi Sudan!) would no doubt enjoy such a precedent.

        • skington says:

          Reading comprehension would demand that your snide remarks at least pay lip-service to the congestion charges being due in London, England, UK, and therefore nothing to do with New York.

          Also, and irrespective of the polite diplomatic tradition of nation's embassy being strictly speaking nation sovereign soil, you'll have to be very good indeed to argue that the streets outside do not, in fact, belong to the nation they appear to belong to.

          • cjensen says:

            Reading comprehension? What. I didn't address the congestion tax in London because it was irrelevant to the argument. For the record, I think the congestion tax is, generally speaking, a great idea. The idea that it should apply to Ambassadors is foolish.

            The problem is that if London can add a congestion tax, then why can't X add a fee for driving on the Y for the ambassador from Z? Sure, I used X=NYC and Y="Driving on a street designated for biking" and Z="China" to be deliberately implausible, but I foolishly thought the reader might see past that, particularly once I mentioned Sudan.

            Suppose we accept the idea that a driving fee should be imposed even upon an Ambassador. Can Sudan, in retaliation for international pressure to stop the genocide in Darfur, impose a million dollar fee upon anyone who drives to the French Embassy in Sudan? You might say "that's absurd" but then you're going to have to explain how this is different. If you say "well London's fee is for the whole downtown, which is reasonable" then you'll need to explain where there is an international treaty that says "whole downtowns ok, one street not ok" because international law isn't that specific. If you say "well the Sudan example has an unreasonable fee" then again, I'd point out that international law does not distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable fees.

            International law isn't for protection against friendly, reasonable countries like the UK. It's for protection against the jackasses. Also, just on general principle, if the Ambassador needs to go see the Prime Minister to explain why the US is nuking Iran, I don't think he should wait until evening to avoid the congestion charge.

            • I thought about creating a well reasoned reply, but frankly, you're a dick.

              • cjensen says:

                See here's the thing. If you think I'm a lunatic you should ignore me -- pigs and wrestling and all. But "I thought about thinking but then I couldn't bother to think so I paraphrased jwz's style of put down" just makes you look stupid.

                Besides, you should have gone with "Please choke on a bucket of cocks." Way funnier.

            • ciphergoth says:

              I think there's some merit to your argument that they shouldn't be obliged to pay it. However, they should still bloody well pay it. The US is supposed to be a close ally of the UK. Ignoring our charges because they don't like them is exactly like parking where they like and not paying the fines; they may be able to get away with it but they're still dicks.

        • charles says:

          "It's one of those irregular verbs, isn't it. I object to unjust tarrifs, you park pragmatically, they are members of a corrupt regime with no respect for the law."

          • cjensen says:

            How about "wow, with that many parking tickets, they must have really sucky parking where they live... wait... mostly Arabs? ... I meant they must be really corrupt."

      • decibel45 says:

        There's far, far greater reason to disband the UN than parking tickets.

    • pir_anha says:

      how about right after kicking the US off british soil:

      "The US Embassy in London now owes £891,000 (that is $1.6 million)." (for the congestion charge they've been refusing to pay.)

      • decibel45 says:

        While we should walk the walk if we're going to talk the talk, I want the UN out of here because it's become a useless organization (except for some of their humanitarian efforts).

        • strspn says:

          Frankly, I wish most legislatures in my jurisdiction were as deadlocked as the security council often is. I think the U.S. would make great progress, if, for example, you gave any ten senators in agreement a veto. I think the U.N. is doing just fine.

          • decibel45 says:

            East Timor.

            The Security Council is one of the few things in the UN that's quasi-functional, or was before the US gave the general assembly the power to over-ride it.

            The vast majority of UN member nations are dictatorships that care nothing for human life. Yet each of these dictators gets the same voting power (in the general assembly) as the nations that brought an end to the Axis in WWII. The UN was originally conceived with only Allied countries as members, so there were never any safeguards put in place to protect against rule by dictators.

            I doubt there's anything that can be done to save the UN at this point. It's been a long time since it actually stood against evil in the world. Now, at best, it turns a blind eye to it.

            • spendocrat says:

              Who would have done a better job in Rwanda?

              Would anyone have been in there at all if there was no UN?

              • decibel45 says:

                I'm assuming that if the UN were disbanded, another organization would be created to take it's place. Of course, that might well not happen...

            • zapevaj says:

              If you're incapable of spelling the name of a country correctly, it probably means you haven't read enough about said country to be able to argue about it.

        • sherbooke says:

          Yes, I agree that the UN is useless when it's doing America's bidding. It needs the security council updating - fr example, it needs the UK, France, Russia & the USA kicking off and replacing with regional reps from North America, South America, EU, Eurasia, Asia, Africa, Oceania etc.

          Incidentally, has the UK and US govts ever paid the money they owe the UN? Or are they still waiting for the UN to "improve"? You could always kick Bolton's arse into the wild blue yonder. He's pretty quiet these days though.

          O'wise, the UN is doing OK with the shittiest end of the stick imaginable. Even given their patchy record, the sheer number of peace-keeping missions is impressive

          • decibel45 says:

            While the list of activities may be impressive, what's not so impressive is the "win-loss" tally. What's far less impressive is the number of people who have died under the UN's watch... 800,000 in Rwanda, for example. (See my comment above for more info).

            • sherbooke says:

              I agree that the UN's record on peace-keeping missions has been less than flawless ... but who can wonder when UN observers get killed in blindingly-obvious observation posts by the USA's proxy. OTOH, America's involvement has been less than full-hearted. Indeed, unless the UN has done the USA's bidding, it get's sidelined, as indeed does all the whole of international law. It's America's behaviour which has probably done more damage to the UN's reputation than anything else.

              • decibel45 says:

                The US had nothing to do with Rwanda, where the UN turned a blind eye to genocide.

                I agree that the UN shouldn't be the US's lapdog, but the UN is fundamentally broken. What else can you expect from an organization that gives brutal dictators equal voice as countries that have continuously fought against atrocities since WWII (say, Canada).

                • sherbooke says:

                  I never said that the US had anything to do with Rwanda. However, the rest of my statements stand. I don't agree that the UN is "fundamentally broken". It's in a parlous state; and it's in that parlous state because the USA - and it's lapdog the UK - has let it get that way. It's a popular whipping-boy for the USAians who don't like international politics, who think that that the world should be run along lines of, oh, America.

                  I see the democracy-in-action test-tube, Iraq, is coming along fine. It's beginnings were inauspicious, subject of an illegal invasion without even the fig-leaf of a UN resolution, against all principles of the UN, a war-crime in progress by a nation who won't even commit to the International War Crimes court, whose body-count is rising by the second. Did you say genoicide? I bet the body-count in Iraq will nudge that 800,000 before the USA drags it sorry arse out of there.

                  And I ain't even started with the way Israel get's away with flouting UN resolutions because the USA vetoes them. I wonder what the Lebanese bodycount is over the last 30 years?

                  • decibel45 says:

                    Last I checked, two wrongs don't make a right. Yes, Iraq is a disaster, yes, the very existence of Israel is highly questionable (though at least I can pin that at least in part on the UK). I'm not disputing that.

                    Do you not agree that the majority of the general assembly is comprised of dictators with at best a mediocre human-rights track record, and at worst an atrocious one? Do you expect such a body to have any effectiveness at protecting innocent people?

                    If you really must drag Iraq into it, then consider this: the UN has been a laughing-stock for far longer than the US has been in Iraq. Had the UN been a viable body, the US probably wouldn't even be in Iraq, because either the UN would have actually enforced it's WMD inspections (with UN-approved force if needed), or worst-case, the US wouldn't have gone in without UN approval.

                  • sherbooke says:

                    The UN has been a laughing-stock of the USA right-wing because it's suited them. It hasn't been a laughing matter this side of the water to see this happen.

                    Second time around, the USA were going into Iraq regardless of the UN, and without the slim cover of it's puppet the UK. That's well documented. You're basically lieing here. Which leads me to suspect your one note attack.

                    See my other reply for dealing with brutal dictators. I'd rather deal with them openly. I'd rather have the civilising influence of nations around them rather than rampantly going their business. I'd rather there be a place for talking to these people than not at all. I'd rather have them under the influence of diplomacy.

                    Whilst the USA maintains it's cavalier attitude to international relations, the UN will never be an effective organisation. While people like you argue against it, it will never be an effective organisation.

                  • decibel45 says:

                    Time for ad-hominem attacks now? Perhaps you should take off your anti-US goggles for a moment and consider the fact that there's plenty of other governments who do just as bad (recently) and far worse (historically) as the US.

                    Talking to dictators is great, unless that's all you're going to do. When they start slaughtering people, you need to step in. The UN has repeatedly failed to do this. Part of that may be the US's involvement, but part of it as absolutely because the dictator-states of the world control the majority of the GA.

                  • sherbooke says:

                    I take back the ad hominen attack and apologise.

                    See other comments. I would like to see the situation you outline changed; I don't see how it can be changed without US involvement, and that means a change of attitude on the part of the USA, the biggest dog in the park currently.

                  • decibel45 says:

                    Sadly, I don't hold too much faith in the Land of the Free and the Home of Surrvivor and the Enquirer. Everytime someone here says that the TSA regulations are a pain but "what else can we do" it takes all my restraint not to smack them.

                • sherbooke says:

                  and another thing, whilst Iraq was flavour of the month stateside, wasn't the regime there committing a genocide? My memory's hazy here but didn't Clinton drop the Kurds in it at one stage?

                  The USA's dealings with brutal dictators are well-known and documented endlessly, with over-throws here there and everywhere. I've lost count of the number of evil dictators that the USA have upheld for some fig-leaf or another. South America bears the heavy foot-prints of death-squads. That fine Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick supporting the Argentinians in the 80s, saying that the USAs best interests lay with the Argentine - and this was when the disappearances were at their height. And you say that the UN should be taken apart because they over-saw Rwanda? I say the USA should be dragged before the International War tribunal many times over for far more heinious crimes. And for the neglect and general hide-beating of an institution which could have done a lot more good if the USA had let it.

                  I'd rather deal with the dictators openly rather than in the shabby way the USA does it dealings. I'd rather work towards improving the current situation than throw my hands up in despair saying "It's no good, we can't go on." We have to go on. We have to believe that we can make the system better; o'wise there's nothing but the law of the warlords, and that includes Bush. Either the USA comes on-side again or we're lost for the next generation or two. Maybe the EU can make a difference.

                  • decibel45 says:

                    It's important to keep in mind that many of the USA's shady dealings in the past might be what ensured that you don't have a USSR flag flying over your head. It's very easy to critique what's been done with 20/20 hindsight, yet impossible to know what the outcome of the cold war would have been had those dealings not happened. The bigger issue is that people want to forget about those dealings or discount them. Well, like it or not, the US created bin Laden. Not Islam, not Afghanistan (though of course they may have played a role), but ultimately the US created him. And now what goes around comes around. Does that mean it was the wrong thing to do? I suspect living under Soviet rule would have been a lot worse than 9/11 and it's continuing aftermath.

                    Going back to the UN, maybe it is salvageable, but I'm highly doubtful. I suspect it simply isn't the right organization to stand up for human rights, because that's not what it was created to do. It's actually served it's original purpose (prevent WWIII) remarkably well, and maybe that alone is enough reason for it's continued existence.

                    What's absurd though is how people want to use the UN as a banner to stand behind when it comes to how people should be treated, because it's track record there is abysmal. You can pick nits about how it compares to the USA's track record there, but that's pointless. It's equivalent to asking if it's better to be hit over the head with a frying pan or a baseball bat. But you don't see people trying to hold the US up as a shining example of how to treat individuals (especially non-citizens), yet people still try and hold the UN up as some kind of beacon.

                  • sherbooke says:

                    Actually, the USA used to be a shining example of how to treat people, in relative terms anyway, particularly during the 2WW. The US treatment of Jap POWs was pretty much exemplary, even though there were a few exceptions. Until Bush got in command, the US Army's JAG had an enviable, if not totally perfect, track-record; the category of non-citizens didn't even exist. The land of opportunity myth seemed to over-shadow the little details. OTOH I'm not too sure all of it's actions can be put down to the cold war. Haig's speech about the frontline of the cold-war starting in Nicaragua seemed way over the top, and designed to instill a reign of fear in it's own back-yard, a back-yard it had trampled over way before the start of the 2WW.

                    My comments still stand about the USA and it's part in the UN's impotence. The USA should again become part of the community of nations rather than following the pre-emptive strike philosophy forged by Cheney. Stick to the Geneva Convention rather than paying it lip-service. It's then we could talk about changing the UN for the better.

                    I think the UN does stand in some way for a better world. It does embody hope even if it's actions are limited, and sometimes fatal for those whom it is supposed to be guarding. However, I don't think it's that absurd. As I said in another post, darkness will descend if the UN is left to rot.

                  • decibel45 says:

                    Sadly, it's already looking pretty dark out. :(

  3. pir_anha says:

    canada has no violations at all. we're such law-abiding folk. (well, not i, but canadian diplomats apparently are :).

    • recrea33 says:

      strange but true.
      canada has more firearms per head than the US
      and a lower murder rate than the uk.


      • decibel45 says:

        The UK may not be the best example, since not only have they banned guns, they've also made it illegal to defend yourself. If you're going to make a comparison, Australia would probably be fairer, though the problem with cross-societal comparisons is that it's essentially impossible to account for all the societal differences.

        The 2nd Amendment: America's original Homeland Security.

  4. jhf says:

    Having driven in NYC, I have to say I would park wherever I liked too, if I thought I'd get away with it.

  5. Rather than an index of corruption it might be an index of national income and hence how expensive the US fines appear to them...

  6. thedimka says:

    it's amazing how Kuwait is doing compared to Pakistan

    Still it looks like an intepolation of actions of a few to the entire country. it is interesting to see, thank you.