Eliminating corruption is one of the trickier tasks on the path to economic liberalization and development. In India, the simple tactic of handing bribe-solictors zero Rupee notes seems to be having a surprisingly strong effect in fighting corruption. The notes, of course, are not real currency, although they look real. And the act of giving them seems to go beyond resisting giving bribes to turning it into an open charade.
In one sense this doesn’t surprise me, since bribery is a type of social convention, and as political scientist Gerry Mackie has shown, social conventions can, with the right type of response, be changed for the better very quickly.
On the other hand, I suspect the zero-value note approach may only work well in places where the corruption is relatively low-level and not accompanied by a seriously oppressive state. Still, that it appears to work in at least some places is cause for cheer.