CONTROLLING TRAFFIC BY INFORMAL MEANS. In the Harvard Gazette article, Mayor Mockus, as befits an academic, pays tribute to some of the thinkers who influenced him: Nobel Prize-winning economist Douglass North, who has investigated the tension between formal and informal rules, and Jürgen Habermas who has published on how dialogue creates social capital.

Enforcing traffic behavior by formal legal penalties can be cumbersome and expensive in big cities—who directs traffic while a policeman is writing out a ticket? (Of course, there are governments that rely on fines to finance a good deal of their budget).

Whenever I see gridlock—cars blocking the box—in New York City it occurs to me that simply directing a violator to pull over and wait for somebody to process a ticket for him would create a powerful disincentive for bad behavior. By hypothesis, the violator is in a hurry, and an enforced time out (visible to other drivers) would sting.

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