Sunday, January 16, 2011

Collective action in Chile

I had a wonderful holiday in Chile over the winter break, and with my institutional analysis lens I observed some interesting institutional arrangements. I like to mention three of them. Each house has a trash basket in front of their house which is on a pilar 50 cm from the ground. One is supposed to put their household trash in for collection. One may wonder why this is on a pilar. The reason is the large number of stray dogs who may otherwise open the trash bags and spread the thrash over the neighborhood. It is interesting that one has created a physical adaptation to the stray dogs instead of providing some arrangements that minimize the number of straydogs. I wonder how this costly adaptation evolved (probably at a local neighborhood level and spread to others) instead of a more collective - but cheaper - approach to contain straydogs.
When one likes to part a car in the busy streets of cities, especially near shopping centers, one can expect to see a man helping you with parking. Holding the traffic and provide directions. When one comes back from shopping one is expected to pay a little reward. This person has a self acclaimed job in protecting part of the street and collects "protection" money. If one does not pay a little reward (and one may wonder why to do so since this person does not relate to the supermarket where one is parking), one may expect some consequences in future times one is parking.
Chile has a surprising level of roadpricing. Within Santiago your car will be registered electronically on various places on highways. One can take in inner roads if one does not want to pay. Within my country the Netherlands they are debating for at least 20 years whether and how to do road pricing, they should take an example to Chile.
Most of the highway (the highway 5 goes from North to South) is split up in parts that are taking care of by private companies who maintain the road and collect toll. After the 8.8 earthquake in February 2010 there was a lot of damage, but these toll roads are now in good condition since they are obliged to keep the roads in good condition. This is in contrast to the publicly maintained roads in Santiago who are often in poor condition.