This was in the Times a few weeks ago, and after it was printed ignited a minor firestorm of angry emails from consulates around the world to a meek statistician from Columbia University, Raymond Fisman. It all started when Fisman figured out a unique way to rank the relative corruption of governments. Until recently, stats had been generated via interviews with UN officials, which naturally tended to give subjective and biased answers. Fisman's method, on the other hand, relied on cold, hard facts: the number of unpaid parking tickets that the diplomats from each country racked up while driving in New York City. (Even though it's technically illegal for diplomats to not pay parking tickets, there has historically been little enforcement.)
Digging through public records dating back 10 years and more than $18 million in unpaid fines, Fisman ranked 146 countries by order of nonpayment. The worst offenders, he reckoned, might also have the "dirtiest" governments. Whether that's the case is, of course, a matter of speculation and opinion. But the results certainly are interesting:
the worst offender was Kuwait, which averaged 246 unpaid tickets per year, per diplomat. Other baddies included Egypt, Chad, Sudan, Bulgaria, Mozambique, Albania, Angola and Senegal.
Countries with zero unpaid tickets: Japan, Canada and Israel.