Editor's note: In his work on the evolution of norms
in societies, Robert Axelrod points out several important
parameters that determine which norms will emerge in a given
society. Among them are the average cost for individual agents to
ignore the rules, and the costs for individual agents to report
the violation of rules by others. In the area of environmental
laws one can see clear differences between different cultures that
might not be explained purely on economic grounds.
We did some simple studies on how environmental laws are
enforced against the practice of private trash-burning in Taiwan.
Our preliminary conclusions are that different agencies (police,
environmental bureau) are not cooperating in environmental areas
and that citizens are discouraged form reporting violations.
In preparing a more detailed report, we would be interested in
reports on related practices in other communities.
Excerpts: A foreign resident has come into conflict
with some of his neighbors, who insist on setting their garbage
ablaze rather than carry it to the garbage truck. (…)
It turned out that the police failed to report the case or
to pass information about the matter to the environmental
protection bureau. (...)
Although Wang Ta-chun, first division chief of the
environmental protection bureau, said that there is little the
bureau can do but to issue tickets to offenders and to conduct
more aggressive patrols, he promised to send some people to take
care of Mayer's problem.