Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Incentives matter: roading file

Thanks to Matt Nolan at the TVHE blog for this one:
This story is a great example of how institutions can shape incentives, in order to change outcomes.
The women of Barbacoas, Colombia have ended a three-month, 19-day “crossed legs” strike of sexual abstinence aimed at getting a road to their isolated town paved, after officials pledged to invest in the project.
The money quote is:
“The men’s first reaction was laughter, because they found the way we were protesting very curious,” Silva said.

Then reality set in, and work on the road finally began last week as the government had promised.
I guess it shows that the women really wanted the road paved! However it does seem a strange way of going about getting it. The longer the strike went on the higher the costs on all parties, which makes maintaining the strike that much more difficult.


Xerographica said...

It was actually also the premise for the movie Absurdistan. Saw it on Netflix a while back and really enjoyed it. Very quirky and low budget romantic foreign comedy. Not quite on par with Chungking Express or Amelie but I'd recommend it to anybody that enjoyed those two movies.

A "crossed legs" strike is certainly one method to let government know how much you value a public good. Of course, the best method would have been to allow people in the town to directly allocate their taxes to the road...aka pragmatarianism. Maybe once they considered the opportunity costs they would have decided to put the money into building a new school instead.

Forcing people to consider the opportunity costs of their individual taxes is the only way to guarantee that limited public resources are efficiently allocated. Therefore, donations to government organizations should be 100% tax deductible.

Horace the Grump said...

I agree that its an interesting incentive as that costs rise for both parties - but I think the key here is rate at which costs rise for men and for women.

One could argue that the costs for men would rise much faster than for women and that the gamble the women were making was that their cost threshold would not be reach before the road was paved.

Seems like the gamble paid off.