Thursday, July 1, 2010

No Failure for Organized Bribery

FP's Failed State Index belies important social realities that rely upon cvil society, not on strong government as I have argued before. Here is a quote From Rachel Strohm at Economic Geographies where she demonstrates what I mean. A failed state, such as the DRC in this example, is not in complete bedlam. Here Ms. Strohm tells us how the police in Kin do not solicit bribes for no reason, though they could well do, they only take bribes in the correct social context.
Bribe-seeking is technically illegal & unregulated behavior, and can look rather chaotic to the first-time observer. If you’re wealthy enough to be traveling by car in downtown Kin, you may rest assured that the roulage will be looking for any pretext to stop you and ask for payment of an imagined fine. (In the situation leading up to the photo above, a friend had parked quite legally in a designated parking spot outside my apartment – after which we were surrounded by police & escorted to the station on claims that we were blocking the road.) Interestingly, though, the key word here is pretext. I never saw any interaction between the police & drivers that did not involve some sort of legalistic claim to the driver’s money, even if both parties knew that the accusation was false. By contrast, white foreigners probably look just as wealthy walking down the street as they do when in cars, but the same police officer who stopped us morning after morning whilst we were driving to work scrupulously ignored me when I walked past him on my way to lunch. Imagined moving violations are presumably easier to justify than imagined walking violations, and the group norm specified that bribery in this particular location had to have a legal pretext.
Social order can be found even within the indicators of state failure!

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