"...even when stationed thousands of miles away, diplomats behave in a manner highly reminiscent of officials in home country..."
Do diplomats bring the corruption "culture" of their home countries when they move to New York City? There seems to be evidence that the answer is "yes", at least according to Ray Fisman and Edward Miguel in their their paper on corruption (via PSD) using data on parking violations committed by thousands of diplomats in
Why parking tickets? Scarcity of parking spots in NYC is legendary and each diplomatic mission to the UN is only given two spots for their cars, regardless of the size of the mission. Cars with diplomatic license plates can be ticketed for parking violations but the diplomats who are the registrants of the cars are immune from any legal punishment if they choose not to pay the tickets. Economic prediction then would tell us that no one will make any payment since everyone can get away with it. One can then argue, as did the authors, that the number of unpaid parking violations represents the revealed preference on "corruption" of the diplomats (or the mission). And guess what, apparently diplomats who come from countries perceived as least corrupt tend to have the least number or even zero unpaid parking tickets. On the other hand, diplomats from countries high in the CPI ranking revealed their preference to, er.. not paying the tickets.
[Quiz: How many of you are actually familiar with our own traffic infraction procedures? Do you know about the blue and red forms? Here's an amusing "how-to" guide to do it the right way - and by that I mean the least corrupt way, not necessarily the cheapest way.]
So what country has the highest number of parking violations per diplomat between November '97 to November '02?
At the other end of the list is Turkey, with zero unpaid parking tickets for their 25 diplomats (remember zero means either they committed no violations or they paid for all the violations they made). There are around 20 other countries also with zeroes but Japan deserves a mention because they have 47 diplomats stationed in New York.
In the paper the authors control for various things including the size of the mission, the country's per capita income, as well as the number of cars registered per mission, but the strong correlations between corruption in home country and the number of unpaid tickets are still there. They went as far as to conclude:
"This strongly suggests that one's background and experiences, what we might call culture, does indeed contribute to bad behavior"
Earlier, we were having a discussion on corruption, provoked by a.p.'s post about whether corruption is necessarily a bad thing. I and others thought that a lot of things a.p. were alluding to in that post were probably only relevant in a second-best world. Norm and culture didn't really enter our discussion, although Treespotter did suggest that disregard for law and order in one area may spill to other areas. Now this paper is saying that diplomats seem to bring their home countries' norms along with them when they come to New York City.
Another interesting result of the paper is that diplomats from countries whose population have unfavorable attitudes toward the
Back on the domestic front, there's a number of important empirical papers on corruption written by Ari Kuncoro of LPEM/FEUI. One of those, a paper on the relationship between bribes and regulation at the local level has been published in the BIES. He has several other papers, some of them you can find at the NBER working paper website. And of course the paper by Ben Olken on corruption in road building also worth a mention.