Parking Tickets and Corruption, Take Two

Last year we blogged about the fascinating study written by economists Ray Fisman and Ted Miguel analyzing the patterns of parking violations among diplomats to the United Nations in New York. They find that diplomats from high corruption countries have more unpaid parking tickets, as do diplomats from countries that are more anti-American.

Armed with that information, try to guess which country’s diplomats are the worst offenders when it comes to dodging congestion charges in London. If you guessed “Nigeria,” you would be close; it has the second worst record for deadbeat diplomats. Still, Nigeria has less than half of the outstanding fines accrued by the No. 1 offender, whose ambassador has been so reluctant to pay for tickets that the Mayor of London has branded him a “venal little crook.”

You can find the answer, which might surprise you, in this report from Britain’s Channel 4 News.

(Hat tip: Colin Robinson.)


I worked for the US Embassy in London and the reason that the US refuses to pay the congestion charge is because they argue that it is a tax on those who operate in central London, not a road use fee, for which they are exempt from paying under the Vienna conventions. I worked to prepare some of the information and arguments around this and thats the basic argument. The local community of Westminster has a big problem with the embassy being in their neighborhood and this is not the only run in with the locals that embassy staff has encountered.


This is about congestion pricing, not parking tickets like the US study. The US embassy argues that they are exempt from congestion pricing due to various treaties. And given that the US embassy is probably one of the largest with the one of the largest number of diplomats and vehicles, they will have a large congestion pricing bill. The same is not necessarily true for real parking and moving violations, and the article implies that the US does pay those.


One more example of the Bush administration contending that it is above the law.


Why do we even have a huge embassy in London? What's the point? Do we spy on them? Ever try to get help as a US citzen from the Embassy? Good luck. So they aren't there to help us. So why are they there?


Actually the US Embassy in London services the other embassies across Europe. Think of it as the central embassy for Europe, not just for the UK. It has a full medical centre for evacuated Americans from across Europe and into Russia and the Middle East. It also houses NATO staff and other Army/Navy folk. Also, it's the busiest and most efficient visa/immigration centre. Many people will travel to London specifically to use the embassy there for applications for visas because its so much quicker. Also it houses IRS and Department of Commerce staff. So it's not just citizen services and UK liaison staff.

RE: zbicyclist - The President, and even the Secretary of State has no real dealings with the daily operations of the embassy staff. The ambassador directs the consulate in its operations with the local government.


What a strange argument. Is that really true? Tax on operating in central London and not a road use fee? Wonder how a 'road use fee' would look like. Anyone got any examples? I always thought it was a fee one paid to use the roads... as opposed to 'operating in an area' fees which are usually called registration fees or licence fees or similar.


Wonder how a ‘road use fee' would look like.

Here's how you tell a tax from a fee. If it is charged to a Republican, it is a tax. If it is charged to the rest of us by Republicans, it is a fee.



Thats a good definition, because when the government takes money from Republicans they think its an encroachment on their liberty and when the government takes money from Democrats they think it is just the fee they need to pay in order to have the government take care of them.


mgjosefsen wonders what a "road-use fee" would look like. Maybe another word would be "toll." Pay a fee to go over this bridge, or down that limited-access road.

The toll, hopefully, takes the place of a general tax on the population by "taxing" the actual users, and pays for its construction and/or upkeep. I'm sure that London has already been constructed and the upkeep was managed well before the "congestion" idea came up.

If you pay a fee to enter the area, but not to use a particular road or structure, I can see the argument that it's a tax under the rules the diplomats adhere to.

The only other thing you could call it is the admission price, and nobody is calling it that.


I note that the congestion charge is not charged for use of the roads; anyone can legally use the roads without paying the fee at all, if they avoid the specified hours. Nor is it a fine for illegal action; there is no prohibition on using the road during those hours. So, since it isn't a road use fee and it isn't a fine, what's left? It's a tax to discourage road use during those hours. And diplomats cannot be taxed.

And I note that among the major "deadbeats" -- that is, countries that agree with the U.S. interpretation -- are Germany and Japan. I wonder how anybody is going to blame that on the Bush Administration thinking it's above the law.


I wonder how anybody is going to blame that on the Bush Administration thinking it's above the law.

Well, let's see. In every controversial case involving Bush/Cheney, if you had concluded immediately - without waiting for the facts- that they thought themselves above the law, then you would have been right.

In every case! So what are the odds that we are wrong now?


The President, and even the Secretary of State has no real dealings with the daily operations of the embassy staff.

That is the biggest bogus bull honky ever written by Republican apologists. Of course, the President has everything to do with the daily operations.

He, Mr. Bush, appointed the "venal little crook". He appointed a do nothing republican donor who made his money as an automobile dealer. Who, of course, just happened to be a major donor to Bush/Cheney.

He's a frigging car saleman. Which is sort of ironic considering that he won't help pay for roads in London.

He is nobody. He was nobody. And soon, we can only hope that he will return to a used car dealership near you.


Er, egretman? The antecedent of "that" was "among the major deadbeats are Germany and Japan". So the question was, how do you blame the fact that Germany and Japan agree with the U.S., on the Bush Administration thinking itself above the law? Did Bush annex those countries to the United States while I wasn't looking?

Oh, wait, now I see it. I presented facts, and you can't wait for them in your rush to bash the Administration. Thus, the way that you blame the actions of Germany and Japan on the Bush Administration believing it's above the law is that you don't stop to consider the facts at all.


the way that you blame the actions of Germany and Japan on the Bush Administration

Since when do Republican apologists and/or neocons care what other countries think?


Everyone knows that all the ambassador appointments are political rewards.

Exactly, Matt. Thanks for agreeing with me. He's a little weasel, despised by all of England. Who will gladly be rid of him when America comes to it's senses.



Is there no one here who will defend this man and his policies? Are we left with his friend's excuse that “Everyone knows that all the ambassador appointments are political rewards?”

Are we left with embassy neocon staff members claiming that even “other countries do it?” The classic argument of the liberal.

Is the “venal little crook” description of him by the London mayor going unchallenged?

Please, someone step forward. America's honor is at stake. And apparently, we now care what other countries think. So don't be bashful, if you think the world is 6000 years old and you graduated from Messiah College, this is your big chance. You could be promoted to the Justice Department.


I'm Just glad that someone's sticking two fingers up to our odious socilaist toad of a London Mayor.


There is also the fact that the embassy in London lies just a few hundred yards inside the congestion zone and the added incentive of not paying the charge is that the embassy staff can freely travel anywhere within the zone. (yellow line is the boundary)

Personally I think they should pay, and especially as they have massively devalued property prices in one of London's nicest squares and made it a complete eyesore by erecting concrete barricades after 9/11.


this one's easy- just put it on our UN dues tab


Matt (#5) takes me to task when I blame this on the Bush administration:

"zbicyclist - The President, and even the Secretary of State has no real dealings with the daily operations of the embassy staff. The ambassador directs the consulate in its operations with the local government."

I concede the specific point, but not the general one. The specific point is that Bush or Rice isn't micro-managing the local embassy, and it's unlikely there has been any communication on this specific topic. For all I know, Bush thinks "congestion tax" is a tax on Benadryl.

The more general point is that this seems to be an arrogant administration that assumes that since we are Americans we must be in the right. We're more moral, we're smarter, we're richer, (etc.) and we don't have to listen to anybody.

A supreme irony is that this moral arrogance occurs at a time when one of our greatest threats is from others with moral arrogance (islamic militants).

Does this general tone extend to the London ambassador (or someone lower down on the embassy staff) thinking we can ignore the congestion fees? I'll agree that's a stretch but I'm not ready to rule it out.