Indonesia | Economics

Monday, July 10, 2006

Culturally corrupt?

Yesterday, I finally printed out and read the Ray Fisman and Edward Miguel paper on disentangling culture and enforcements from a person’s – in this case, a United Nations (UN)-mission diplomat’s – decision to corrupt. I recommend everyone interested in the subject to read it. It’s another example that one needs not be a “rogue economist” to present a really interesting economic work with real world implications...

I know two persons who have reviewed this work. One is a fellow Indonesian economist who summarized this research. The second one is Tim Harford, writing for the Financial Times (but whose work, by syndication, is also published in Slate). Both are nicely done in their own ways.

The context is parking tickets of UN-mission diplomats in New York – a legal violation that, by way of diplomatic immunities, any diplomat can get away with impunity. The research question is: “In the world of no enforcement, would people decide to take advantage of their official diplomatic position?” "To take advantage of one's official position" captures the definition of corruption quite well.

There are two main findings. First, norms related to corruption are deeply ingrained, so much that even when the crime is not punished, people from a less corrupt countries corrupt much less than those from more corrupt countries. This might seem obvious to anyone who ever has foreign roommates, but before this paper, such a hypothesis remains just that. This paper supplements this common sense with empirical credibility.

Second, sentiments matter to corruption decision. The affinity of a diplomat’s home country to the United States (US) affects the number of “corruption” – that is, diplomats from countries unfavourable to US policies tend to corrupt more. This finding substantiates further my concern towards the poor treatment of KPK, Indonesia’s anti-corruption commission. The best way to defeat KPK is by making its committed members feel cheated by the government.

Actually, there is a third finding buried in pages 11 to 12 of the paper that I find interesting. That is, the longer a person’s tenure in her or his diplomatic position, s/he will become bolder in his or her “corruption” (PS: for an interesting analogy with bagel thiefs, see this entry). There is this saying: "When in Rome do what the Romans do". But, when Rome doesn’t enforce its laws, the longer you stay in Rome, you don't become anything like the Romans. In a way, this is similar to the Istora queue story I wrote (in Indonesian) before.

But, don't you fret. There is a silver lining to the story. From Tim Harford:

In 2002 the Clinton-Schumer Amendment gave New York City much greater power to punish diplomatic parking violations: Cars were towed, permits suspended, and fines collected from the relevant foreign-aid budget. Unpaid violations immediately fell 90 percent. When it comes to parking violations, personal morality matters, but incentives matter more.

Economists were not (completely) wrong after all...

3 Comments:

  • Bagaimana pendapatnya si mas ttg pendapat yg bilang korupsi juga meningkatkan effisiensi.
    Bagaimana juga ttg program2x yg memberikan pelayanan khusus pada customer kantong tebal seperti Mandiri Prioritas dimana si nasabah yg punya duit banyak tidak perlu antri, kayaknya bedanya ama nyogok utk buat sim tipis jadinya.

    By Anonymous Babe, at 7/12/2006 06:54:00 am  

  • Babe: Anda selalu memprovokasi saya untuk menulis entry baru. Jawaban saya ada di sini.

    Beda antara pemerintah dan Bank Mandiri adalah Mandiri tidak memiliki monopoli yang dimiliki pemerintah. Maka pelayanan khusus Mandiri adalah sesuatu yang "dibeli" oleh nasabahnya.

    Jika Anda tidak puas (atau merasa kesal karena merasa diperlakukan sebagai warga kelas dua), Anda bisa pindah ke bank lain yang kurang lebih menyediakan pelayanan serupa.

    "Korupsi" sebagai "biaya tambahan" tidak menjadi masalah jika saja ada barang substitusi untuk "komoditas" (baca: izin, proyek pemerintah) yang dijual pejabat. Karena tidak ada substitusi, maka harga yang diberikan pejabat itu pasti terlalu tinggi -- dan, dalam ekonomi, ini berarti terjadi misalokasi.

    Ke analogi SIM, jika ada penyedia SIM lain, dan konsumen yang keberatan dengan antrean bisa memilih antara berpindah ke penyedia SIM lain atau membayar lebih, maka memang tidak ada bedanya.

    Namun, jika ada monopoli pengadaan SIM, konsumen rugi karena si produsen SIM akan menerapkan harga yang paling menguntungkan dia, terlepas dari besarnya permintaan SIM.

    Ini hanya dari sisi efisiensi saja lho. Masih ada dari soal keadilan. Tapi, ini untuk lain waktu...

    By Blogger Arya, at 7/12/2006 08:57:00 am  

  • Terima kasih atas info dan artikelnya.

    By Anonymous Babe, at 7/13/2006 07:23:00 am  

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