The first clash, of course, warns of the inherent problems of command and control of prices in a planned economy. The government subsidizing the price of gasoline in Bolivia is obviously in the interests of the drivers themselves ... but, as with any country, there are opportunity costs to having the subsidy in place. These include congestion and pollution, but less obvious is that Bolivia has paid the price in density. Bolivia is even less densely populated than the United States (at 23/sq vs 87.4/sq mi, respectively). There are obvious benefits to scale in living close to other people in many areas of life, not the least of which is wealth generation.
The second clash, and subsequent "u-turn" taken by the government illustrates the importance of quality institutions, both in markets and in government. There is always going to be some skimping by the rules in any society, but to have the practice institutionalized is the mark of ineffectual government leadership, low trust and poor institutions. I would wager a bet that the officers were running a larger racket than just providing the plates, which included various levels of extortion. This is highly inefficient, and exacerbates the problem of Bolivian roads being in awful shape.
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