Parking Tickets and National Character in Turtle Bay

by Translation Guy on July 27, 2011

It is generally very difficult to find a place to park in Manhattan. And the most difficult place of all in Manhattan to find a parking place is in our neighborhood around the United Nations. This is because diplomats come with cars and drivers, which take diplomatic parking spaces, of which there are not enough to go around. I have reported on this parking problem in the past, when I have been disrespected by certain drivers of certain competitors, who now stay on the north side of 46th Street thanks to certain conversations that made certain points clear.

But sad to say, diplomats in all their immunity do not have the same fear of the tow truck that makes the rest of us behave. Much to the fury of the alternative side of the street crowd (currently stuck in traffic trying to cross Broadway), diplomats don’t have to pay parking tickets.

A few years ago, Raymond Fisman and Edward Miguel took a look at which countries pay their tickets and which don’t. In Cultures of Corruption: Evidence From Diplomatic Parking Tickets, the two economists saw a way to get at the culture of corruption on the level playing field that is parking, NYC-style.

The lack of any enforcement allowed the researchers to “examine the role of cultural norms alone. This generates a revealed preference measure of government officials’ corruption based on real-world behavior taking place in the same setting. We find strong persistence in corruption norms: diplomats from high corruption countries (based on existing survey-based indices) have significantly more parking violations, and these differences persist over time. In a second main result, officials from countries that survey evidence indicates have less favorable popular views of the United States commit significantly more parking violations, providing non-laboratory evidence on sentiment in economic decision-making. Taken together, factors other than legal enforcement appear to be important determinants of corruption.”

Jon Bruner, Datanaut over at Forbes, has created two world maps, one of diplomatic parking scofflaws (pictured above) after the study by Fisman and Miguel, and one of official corruption as calculated by Transparency International:

Fisman concluded that a “certain amount of corruption is grounded in culture and immune to carrots and sticks.”

Scandinavian countries, which perennially rank among the least corrupt in the corruption index, had the fewest unpaid tickets. There were just 12 tickets from the 66 diplomats from Finland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden, and almost all of these tickets went to one bad Finn.

Chad and Bangladesh, at the bottom of the corruption index, were among the worst scofflaws. They shirked 1,243 and 1,319 tickets, respectively, in spite of the fact that their UN missions were many times smaller than those of the Scandinavians.

So are some languages better for bribery than others? Maybe there’s no way in Danish to ask for a bribe, while there might be 50 different words for bribery in Bengali. Just checked the thesaurus and found 40 synonyms in English. Not sure if that’s a lot or a little.


  1. US Dips are the worst, hands down. Remember that American “diplomat” for shooting dead two Pakistanis in Lahore? What kinf of diplomate carries a gun?!!?

  2. Sweetpea says:

    WOW. There were also allegations that a Bangladeshi diplomat facilitated human trafficking of Bangladeshi migrants… so I’m not really surprised, but Wow again.

  3. Roger Perez says:

    What about Japan’s foreign minister, Taro Aso, saying that US diplomats in the Middle East would never solve the region’s problems because they have “blue eyes and blond hair”? Ken I know you have a liking for both countries, what do you think of this guy?

    • Ken says:

      Mr Aso, a straight-talking nationalist, said the Japanese, on the other hand, were trusted because they had “yellow faces” and had “never been involved in exploitation there, or been involved in fights or fired machine guns”.

      Interesting Roger, I used to work with guys like that writing stuff like that. Aso is an amazing guy who totally controls the context of every room he is in. I haven’t seen the clip, but this sounds like a great line to earn some press and advance Japan’s interests.

  4. Marc Godfrey says:

    The UN Secretary General himself, as well as the Ambassadors of major countries themselves, would most likely have chauffeurs, thus would not leave their cars parked in no-park zones unattended. So these are low ranking people?

    • Ken says:

      Each diplomatic establishment has a car fleet, with drivers to get diplomatic staff around, pick up stuff at the airport for security. Those are the guys on the street. Whenever the ambassador or some other official is in the car, its moving.

  5. As for the bottom of the list. Now are we really to believe that these diplomats are so ethical that they would not think of parking illegally. No way! My guess? Somehow, they convinced NYC to park in Fac/Staff

  6. There are a lot of bad diplomats out there. For instance, back home in France. We have a reputation for being arrogant and bossy. Now Henri Paul, France’s Ambassador to Bucharest, has affirmed that. He called Romania a bizarre and touching country that didn’t meet European standards. Crash! There you go. He could have also said we’ll never allow these bloody bastards into Schengen. Good old Henri isn’t too keen on gypsies as well because he added: “Roma people come from another planet.”

    • Ken says:

      Sounds like he’s made a name for himself. Succès de scandale in Paris and “no such thing as bad press” in Hollywood.

  7. Stuart Roy says:

    Conclusion: Diplomats suck at parking.

  8. Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) is gonna maybe charge Obama £5.5 million for Congestion charges racked up by the US Embassy. Reminded me of this :)

  9. Tessie says:

    On crime and corruption. It’s about accountability. It’s about responsibility. It’s about right and wrong. For the good of the collective whole. It’s about virtue. It’s about faith. It’s about national security. And it’s about time. In Jesus’ name I pray.

  10. Yvette Myer says:

    What’s the point of diplomatic immunity if you cann’t ignore the odd fine?

    • Ken says:

      A diplomat once told me that diplomacy was the oldest profession. Its great work when you can get it.

  11. Annie Frye says:

    Parking tickets are one thing, but it seems that foreign dipolomats take advantage of their special privileges to commit gross human violations and claim immunity for everything including what appears to be human trafficking and sexual assault and other crimes. A crime against a human being in the United States and disregard for our laws should be considered a crime against the United States government and foreign diplomates must lose immunity from prosecution.

  12. Ruth Bass says:

    Chad is consistently in the top-ten list for most corrupt nations. In addition to being one of the world’s poorest countries, it is considered incredibly unstable, as rebel forces often attempt to overthrow the government; Chad’s president, Idriss Deby, has faced two attempted coups in 2006 and 2008. So no surprise here.

  13. Parking tickets, you cheap *BLATT* diplomats!

  14. After these two, the next 17 of 18 are from Africa. So it appears Africa doesn’t care so much about parking safety. Mr. Eko, why have you forsaken us?

LiveZilla Live Chat Software