Monday, June 26, 2006

A Little Bribery

Joel Waldfogel considers fun times – and a little bribery - at the New Delhi Department of Motor Vehicles:

The Department of Motor Vehicles, here and in many foreign countries, is a place of long lines, sour bureaucrats (think
Patty and Selma Bouvier, Marge Simpson's chain-smoking spinster sisters), and bleak interior decorating. By the time you get to the front of the photo line, you need to shave again. Since access to government clerks is normally allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, people pay with their time rather than their money. This is inefficient: Suppose you're in a big hurry and would be willing to pay a lot to avoid waiting, while I don't mind waiting. Then you could go ahead of me, making you a lot better off and me only a little worse off, which reduces our collective frustration. One way to achieve this efficiency would be to charge a higher price for expedited service. Yet, an expedited government service option typically does not exist. So, in some countries, the offer of a bribe in exchange for quicker processing is a common form of corruption—reducing the social cost of waiting in line.

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