Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Finland, Home of the $103,000 Speeding Ticket

with one comment

Excellent idea, adjusting fines to ability to pay. A $500 fine can be crushing to a low-income person and more or less laughed off by a highly-paid executive or tech worker. For the highly paid, a $500 fine is barely noticeable, just as are the million-dollar fines levied on international corporations: for those, a million-dollar fine is petty cash. But charge a fine appropriate to income level and you get people’s attention. Needless to say, the wealthy don’t like it: they’re accustomed to fines that are trivial compared to their income, and that the same fines are onerous to those with low incomes bothers them not at all—but when the fine is onerous to them, they suddenly develop a sense of how it feels, and they don’t like it. My sympathy is muted. Perhaps they shouldn’t speed? Though it doubtless shocks them to discover they are not above the law, on the whole I believe the effect is salutary.

Joe Pinsker writes in the Atlantic:

Reima Kuisla, a Finnish businessman, was recently caught going 65 miles per hour in a 50 zone in his home country—an offense that would typically come with a fine of a couple hundred dollars, at most, in the U.S. But after Finnish police pulled Kuisla over, they pinged a federal taxpayer database to determine his income, consulted their handbook, and arrived at the amount that he was required to pay: €54,000.

The fine was so extreme because in Finland, some traffic fines, as well as fines for shoplifting and violating securities-exchange laws, are assessed based on earnings—and Kuisla’s declared income was €6.5 million per year. Exorbitant fines like this are infrequent, but not unheard of: In 2002, a Nokia executive was fined the equivalent of $103,000 for going 45 in a 30 zone on his motorcycle, and the NHL player Teemu Selanne incurred a $39,000 fine two years earlier.

“This is no constitutionally governed state,” one Finn who was fined nearly $50,000 moaned to The Wall Street Journal, “This is a land of rhinos!” Outrage among the rich—especially nonsensical, safari-invoking outrage—might be a sign that something fair is at work.

Finland’s system for calculating fines is relatively simple: It starts with an estimate of the amount of spending money a Finn has for one day, and then divides that by two—the resulting number is considered a reasonable amount of spending money to deprive the offender of. Then, based on the severity of the crime, the system has rules for how many days the offender must go without that money. Going about 15 mph over the speed limit gets you a multiplier of 12 days, and going 25 mph over carries a 22-day multiplier.

Most reckless drivers pay between €30 and €50 per day, for a total of about €400 or €500. Finland’s maximum multiplier is 120 days, but there’s no ceiling on the fines themselves—the fine is taken as a constant proportion of income whether you make €80,000 a year or €800,000.

Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, France, and Switzerland also have some sliding-scale fines, or “day-fines,” in place, but in America, flat-rate fines are the norm. Since the late 80s, when day-fines were first seriously tested in the U.S., they have remained unusual and even exotic.

But to advocate for the American adoption of day-fines isn’t to engage in the standard grass-is-greener worship of Scandinavia that’s in style right now. It’s logical. Yes, day-fines might dissuade the rich from breaking the law; after all, wealthier people have been shown to drive more recklessly than those who make less money, and Steve Jobs was known to park in handicapped spots and drive around without license plates.

But more importantly, day-fines could introduce some fairness to a legal system that many have convincingly shown to be biased against the poor. Last week, the Department of Justice released a comprehensive report on how fines have been doled out in Ferguson, Missouri. “Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs,” it concluded. . .

Continue reading.

For too long the wealthy have acted as scofflaws, insulated by their wealth and the trivial fines that are levied. It’s past time for a change. But wealthy folks do not like being the same (relative) position as poor folks because the wealthy have a very strong sense of entitlement.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 March 2015 at 1:40 pm

One Response

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  1. Reblogged this on a TransParent Mom and commented:
    I like it!! Bring it to America!!

    aTransParentMom

    14 March 2015 at 9:03 am


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