Location: Poland

Friday, October 21, 2005

Corruption and Poland (part one of ???)

Poland, where I live, has recently been named the most corrupt country in the EU by Transparency Internation (no link, they don't need it). In expressing some skepticism about all this at warsawstation (no link because I'm too ignorant to know how) I was asked some questions that made me think. Rather than answer there, I'm going to turn them into a series. I have no idea how long it will be. Given my track record so far on this thing, there's no telling how often new installments will happen.

I think there's a difference between corruption and the normal give and tack of getting through the day in any society and there's a big gray area in the middle. I hope everybody can agree that a cop taking a direct payment instead of issuing a deserved ticket is corruption and a cop letting someone off with a warning (after some conversational give and take) instead of issuing a deserved ticket probably isn't. But again, there's a big space in the middle where things aren't so clear.
I'll start all of this off (as I usually do) with a digression:
In the Silent Language, Edward T. Hall describes a 20 year conflict concerning speeding tickets in a small Southwestern US town with mostly Hispanic, but some Anglo residents. A Hispanic traffic cop enforced the ludicrously low speed limit ruthlessly and routinely gave out tickets (with a hefty fine) for going even one mile over the limit. The Hispanic residents rarely actually paid the fine, they usually knew someone in the courthouse who could make it go away. The Anglos couldn't and/or wouldn't make use of acquaintances or family members that way and paid the fines but thought there should be some leeway in enforcing the law, that only people going well over the limit or otherwise driving recklessly should be fined.
In other words, one system (Hispanic) initiated the legal process over very minor infractions, but the process only rarely reached maturation. The other system (Anglo) was more ruthless (or upstanding?) when the process was actually initiated but expected that the process would only be initiated on serious, rather than trivial (here undefined) infringements.
Which system is more corrupt? Which system is more likely to engender corruption?


Blogger beatroot said...

Doesn't it all come down to the rule of law? We all think some laws are crap, and we all are a little selective which laws we pbey (if we think that we are harming nobody else). The thing about transitional democracies like Poland is getting people to respect laws.

I see this everyday with copyright law. Some of the older members of the journalist profession here are not bad people, but they have no concept of intellectual property and all that stuff. They think that news agency reports - if they have an account to receive those reports - can be re-published word for word...and with a new by-line!

Sometimes corruption is just naivety.

As I say, I don't think these people are bad, but the concept of rule of law etc is a cultural thing, and just takes time to catch on...

Ps. A word of advice. Turn on the word verification thingy, otherwise you are going to be bombarded with spam comments...

8:11 AM  
Blogger Michael Farris said...

I'll be addressing the "respect laws" idea in more depth after a few more installments.

As to intellectual property, the US libertarian bloggers (IIRC) are certainly not into it, except maybe for their own work.

And how should a Polish person square your idea that some laws aren't good and people are selective with which they obey with getting people to respect laws? The first two are pretty much the status quo here already.

Also, wielkie dzięki for the word verification thingy, done and done.

9:56 AM  
Blogger Gustav said...

System A (I won't call it the "hispanic system") would engender more corruption.

Why? Because by interpreting the law ludicrously strictly, the law becomes an inanity to be avoided and gotten out of, rather than something to be respected.

Enforcing the spirit of the law engenders respect for the rules, because people see they are being applied fairly.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Bialynia said...

Beatroot, on the topic of that copyright you refer to, a chicago magazine called Express was copying Newsweek Polska articles verbatim, including "as Newsweek last reported", they got a cease and desist letter. It was pretty funny.

4:47 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home