vignette_091On the way down to our Italian bolthole we pass from Germany into Switzerland at Basel and each time we are confronted with the same frustrating, but also interesting, phenomenon. To drive on Swiss motorways you need to buy an annual vignette. As you approach the Swiss frontier, traffic on the autobahn is divided into two lanes; those with the vignette, and those without. But how do the good burghers of Basel know for certain that those drivers in the ‘with vignette’ queue have really got their vignette? The answer is that you make them slow down to walking pace and check their windscreen. (I am sure that these checks could be done electronically, but that’s another story.) The result is a long tailback of the virtuous (because everybody in that queue knows that they are going to get checked, everybody in the queue necessarily has her or his vignette). By this time of the year all regular or fairly frequent travellers to or through Switzerland have bought their vignette so, in contrast, the ‘without vignette’ lane is empty. Now, here comes the interesting bit – sociologically and culturally speaking. Because those travelling south are, generally, from northern countries where respect for such rules is high, the ‘with vignette’ queue remains long and the ‘without vignette’ queue is non-existent – which, of course, is perverse or, at the least, counter-intuitive. In Italy (for example), drivers with vignette would immediately twig and start to drive into the ‘without vignette’ lane. Being utterly rational beings, they would continue to do this until the ‘with vignette’ queue became shorter – a configuration of the queues which would be altogether more intuitive and less perverse. I have been racking my brains trying to think of a parallel from the social, political or economic worlds.