Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Bogus corruption?

I've never driven in, or even been to, India, but I imagine that the vehicular chaos on the streets is similar to that of Karachi, Pakistan, where I have been many times. In Karachi, rickshaws, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and even the occassional donkey or camel careen about at high speed in very close proximity to one another. There is one major roundabout in the city that goes clockwise and anticlockwise at the same time. Cars often reverse down entire stretches of street. It's quite exciting.

Therefore, I cannot take Slate's account of the negative effects of corruption at the Indian DMV too seriously.
This study confirms the view of the World Bank, which "has identified corruption as among the greatest obstacles to economic and social development." Payoffs at the Indian DMV may save some qualified drivers some time. But it has the bad direct effect of allowing unsafe drivers on the road. And it has an even more corrosive indirect effect: If bribes are more likely to get them a license than driving lessons, applicants have too little incentive to learn how to drive before hitting the road—and each other.
Ummm, I think anyone on the road has plenty of incentive to drive well and safely -- namely the risk of breaking your neck and damaging your car. I don't think that having to qualify for a license changes those incentives much.

Moreover, I don't think that driving lessons do much good in a place like New Dehli (or Karachi) given the chaos on the roads. People don't follow any rules, they just drive, at high speed, wherever they want. You need nerves of steel, cobra fast reflexes, and am ambivilent attitude towards living to drive well there, not the highway code.


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