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Moldova And The Cobra Effect

Are Moldovans just waiting to vote for the Communists again?

Are Moldovans just waiting to vote for the Communists again?

Back in the days of colonial India, Delhi had a snake problem. It got so bad that the British administration offered a generous bounty for every killed snake. Evidently they thought the locals would be happy to take up the cause. But it didn't work out that way.

Instead, people began raising snakes in order to earn as much money as possible. When the government figured this out, it cancelled the bounty, prompting many of the snake farmers to release their no-longer-profitable snakes into the wild and making the original situation considerably worse.

In short, the government's decision had the exact opposite of its intended effect. In economics, this is called the "cobra effect."

Natalia Morari blogs for RFE/RLs Moldovan Service.
A similar thing happened more recently when the government of Caracas, Venezuela, decided to tackle the city's traffic problem. The mayor decreed that only cars with license plates that ended in an even number could be on the streets on even-numbered days and that odd-numbered cars could be driven only on odd-numbered days. The authorities were certain that this measure would cut the traffic volume in half.

But locals had different ideas. Very quickly, many people acquired a second car and the number of cars in the city nearly doubled.

Of course, we don't live in Delhi or in Caracas. But we don't have any special exemption from the cobra effect. The authorities, including the Communist opposition, should think about this as they go about making decision.

The Communists -- at least many of them -- are working hard to provoke another round of parliamentary elections. Apparently they think that the ruling alliance will make some mistakes between now and the vote and that disappointed voters will cast their ballots for the Communist Party. That would seem to make sense.

If not for the cobra effect. I, for example, in such a situation would vote for any other party but the Communists. And I know a lot of people who feel the same way.

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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