Fixed fines create class justice?

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ArgonV
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Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby ArgonV » Fri Sep 10, 2010 1:50 pm UTC

I just had a discussion with a friend of mine about the height of traffic fines and such. He argued that they were fine the way they are, since for the law everyone is equal. I disagreed, since that way, the law isn't equal for everyone. Let me explain:

Fines that are a fixed amount of money are easy, because you know what you have to pay when you commit a minor infraction, such as speeding. If you drive 20 km/h too fast, you get fined an X amount of money. If you pass the speed limit by too much (here 50 km/h), your driving license gets revoked. Simple as that. Sounds fair right?

Now consider these three cases: A millionaire is caught speeding. He has to pay a fine of, say, 150 euros. Petty change for him, so screw it. A middle class citizen, making 60.000 a year gets the same fine for speeding. Sure, it sucks and he might have to wait a month before he can buy that new TV he wants. So be it. Someone working for minimum wage gets the same fine. To him/her, that might be two weeks worth of food he/she now can't buy.
In this example, the minimum wage person gets punished a lot harsher than the middle class citizen, whilst the millionaire just laughs it off.
Let's make the fines variable, depending upon income (or wealth). The guy with the minimum wage might have to pay only 30 euros, which'll probably still sting, but won't cost him two weeks of food. The middle-class-income-guy should be in the same situation, a 150 euro fine, since he's middle class and everything, whilst the millionaire might have to pay tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of euros. Which even he will feel in his wallet.
Compare it to the (Draconian) islamic law where thieves get their hands cut off for stealing, since no matter how rich or poor you are, everyone would hate to lose a hand...

I know I'm simplifying things a bit much here and that this can be abused - I've heard stories that bosses pay their employees' fines in countries with such methods, since they make more profit on getting the goods there fast than they lose on the fines - but overall it seems fairer.

That might just be me though.

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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Oregonaut » Fri Sep 10, 2010 2:32 pm UTC

To my knowledge, and I may have to go to Google for this one, in some countries in Europe, fines like you mentioned are a ratio of your income, rather than a flat fee. However, I believe there is a floor where you cannot be charged less than a certain amount. This means that occasionally you'll get some pompous ass in a Maz doing 150 km/h in a 20, and he loses a million or so in fines.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Griffin » Fri Sep 10, 2010 2:53 pm UTC

Makes perfect sense to me logically, but the difficult I think would come with in enforcement. A lot harder to do mail-order tickets on the cheap as a fund-raising method if you actually need to find out stuff about the guy, I'd imagine. Might be offset by the windfall of an occasional rich guy, though...
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Badion » Fri Sep 10, 2010 4:39 pm UTC

I couldn't disagree more. The Law is supposed to be blind to the classes and therefore the fine is fixed. If the law were to take into account the economic class you were part of that would be unfair to the rich people who paid out the wazoo for the same infraction you committed. Despite the percentage of your income or the effects you have the law is there to prevent you from doing something it deems dangerous to others. That rich person who is speeding is making the state a ton of money cause it doesn't cost them much so he keeps doing it, that middle class person probably learned their lesson and won't speed as often and the lower class person will surely understand that this was a mistake and the roads will be safer. So if the laws responsible for protecting the citizens then it just slowed down 2 out of three 3 cases and that is a win in their books.


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Last edited by Badion on Fri Sep 10, 2010 4:57 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Oregonaut » Fri Sep 10, 2010 4:45 pm UTC

It doesn't cost *him* much, but it does cost the person he runs over a hell of a lot. Especially since he was never convinced by the law to slow his roll. So if the point is deterrence, in order to prevent vehicular manslaughter from ruining someone's day, then scaling the fine seems appropriate.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Badion » Fri Sep 10, 2010 5:11 pm UTC

You missed the point of the argument. The state does not expect to get 100% so that means 2 out of 3 is sufficient. Also, looking at the way things really are, there is more middle and lower class than upper class, so the reality is they have deterred the great majority. If you scale the fine then the people are not punished enough and everyone acts like the rich person.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Oregonaut » Fri Sep 10, 2010 5:14 pm UTC

But my contention is to have a floor to the fine whereby the lower earners are still adequately deterred. That way you deter everyone, not just those who can't afford it.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Badion » Fri Sep 10, 2010 5:42 pm UTC

So you are scaling up but not scaling down (or at least setting a bottom to some extent) which doesn't really solve the problem. It still goes back to a certain question about how much of an impact the fine is upon the person. The right thing to do would be to make the repetition of a crime more costly. As I stated before those who the fine hits hardest are likely to be reluctant to recommit the crime. The repeat offenders, the upper class in this scenario, should be hit harder and harder and harder for each violation of the repeated crime.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Azrael » Fri Sep 10, 2010 7:04 pm UTC

Badion wrote: The repeat offenders, the upper class in this scenario, should be hit harder and harder and harder for each violation of the repeated crime.

You'd have to demonstrate that repeat offense trends upwards with economic means, which isn't a clear case whatsoever. Theoretical monetary deterrence is only a single variable in an incredibly complex system.

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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Badion » Fri Sep 10, 2010 7:52 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:
Badion wrote: The repeat offenders, the upper class in this scenario, should be hit harder and harder and harder for each violation of the repeated crime.

You'd have to demonstrate that repeat offense trends upwards with economic means, which isn't a clear case whatsoever. Theoretical monetary deterrence is only a single variable in an incredibly complex system.



You are absolutely correct! I was working within the parameters set forth by the OP which sets the stage for the trending towards upwards.

I personally believe that breaking the law tends to be more of a lower class action and studies have shown that. I was merely arguing within in the parameters.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Oregonaut » Fri Sep 10, 2010 7:54 pm UTC

That may be because there are a boatload more lower class people than upper class people.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Badion » Fri Sep 10, 2010 8:03 pm UTC

Now we are leaning towards the argument of why do lower class commit more crimes. This is a philosophical debate that still rages. a higher percentage of crimes are committed in the lower class than in the upper class, not just strictly on the volume of the class.

Lets leave the class thing out of this and put our heads in the government frame of mind. If I charged you $100(insert currency amount that would relate to the $) you might never speed, then the gov made just $100. but if I charge you $40, which is much less and typically not overly too much (i know I know I know, we are ignoring class) you might risk speeding more because , hey, it did not cost you too much and you can afford it again if it happens. Well now you keep doing it and 100 has turned into 240 and you didn't even notice it, hell the fines were affordable.

The law protects people, the fine pays the government, they are not necessarily working towards the same goal.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby bentheimmigrant » Fri Sep 10, 2010 8:20 pm UTC

Badion wrote:Now we are leaning towards the argument of why do lower class commit more crimes. This is a philosophical debate that still rages. a higher percentage of crimes are committed in the lower class than in the upper class, not just strictly on the volume of the class.


But this argument requires you to put murder and speeding on the same level. This is obviously not true. I think everyone will admit that the lower your socio-economic class, the more likely you are to commit a crime. But how does that apply to speeding? I don't have data one way or the other, but connecting "crime" in general with "fine-able offences" seems a bit tenuous.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Griffin » Fri Sep 10, 2010 9:02 pm UTC

If the point of a fine is as punishment, or deterrence, or basically anything that makes sense, then fairness requires you scale. For things like jailtime, a day is a day, no matter who gets put there.

But for punative transactions? The whole point is to have an effect on the person being fined - if you can pay your way out of it without thinking, then its simply not having the desired effect.

Actually, this is why I'm against fines in general, especially fixed fines - it says its okay to break the law, as long as you have enough money.

Hell, government controlled money based decisions that aren't punative (child support, alimony, income tax), so why wouldn't fines be treated this way as well?

When its essentially "ok" for one person (or class, for those who like the word) to break the law (because they can easily afford it), but not another, that is n0t 0k.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby ArgonV » Fri Sep 10, 2010 10:00 pm UTC

Yeah, I'm not talking about jail time or anything, since a day lost is a day lost, not matter how rich you are.

I'm just putting forward that a certain amount of money to be paid is a much harsher punishment to some than to others.

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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby bentheimmigrant » Fri Sep 10, 2010 10:12 pm UTC

ArgonV wrote:Yeah, I'm not talking about jail time or anything, since a day lost is a day lost, not matter how rich you are.

I'm just putting forward that a certain amount of money to be paid is a much harsher punishment to some than to others.


Personally, I think points systems on licenses achieves this in a much more efficient way than money, because everyone is given the same amount to "spend." Although in principle I think a sliding scale would be good, how do you means test it? Do you count stocks held etc? Or actual money income/money in the bank? What about self employed people with irregular income streams? I think the reason that the fine is still needed is just to bring the abstract idea of points into a reality of money. The points are where it's at, but I doubt people would put as much thought into them if it didn't cost. I tend to be a pragmatist, so basically the question comes down to whether it would actually work. Now, fines that are handed down from a court can be means tested properly and thoroughly, and I think that should be implemented (and already is, I think). But when it comes to things like a speeding ticket, you're not going to end up in front of a judge, and there's no generic way of doing it that won't go horribly wrong somewhere.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Berelanai » Fri Sep 10, 2010 11:25 pm UTC

Alternatively, fines could be set at the average cost of the damages of a crime. Jaywalking, for example, has a chance to delay traffic by a minute or so, multiplied by however many people it delays on average is so many lost man hours, and so on. Then the fines could be remunerative rather than punitive. Under most legal systems its already allowed to waste as much resources and labor as you like - as long as you have the money to pay for them. This could just become the same thing.

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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby bentheimmigrant » Sat Sep 11, 2010 12:33 am UTC

Berelanai wrote:Alternatively, fines could be set at the average cost of the damages of a crime. Jaywalking, for example, has a chance to delay traffic by a minute or so, multiplied by however many people it delays on average is so many lost man hours, and so on. Then the fines could be remunerative rather than punitive. Under most legal systems its already allowed to waste as much resources and labor as you like - as long as you have the money to pay for them. This could just become the same thing.


Unfortunately, then they'd have to pay you for speeding.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby mmmcannibalism » Sat Sep 11, 2010 12:53 am UTC

Charging differently based on class is saying that the crime was greater if a rich person did it.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby bentheimmigrant » Sat Sep 11, 2010 1:09 am UTC

mmmcannibalism wrote:Charging differently based on class is saying that the crime was greater if a rich person did it.


I think that's a fairly narrow view of it. If two people commit the same crime and are given the same fine, but one earns 20x more than the other, who actually feels it more? If you go by absolute terms, yes, that is equal. But it's not unreasonable to look at things proportionately. If you lose 0.1% of your yearly income (please don't pick that number apart, I just made it up) for the crime, it becomes significantly more proportional to the value of money to the individual.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby mmmcannibalism » Sat Sep 11, 2010 2:17 am UTC

bentheimmigrant wrote:
mmmcannibalism wrote:Charging differently based on class is saying that the crime was greater if a rich person did it.


I think that's a fairly narrow view of it. If two people commit the same crime and are given the same fine, but one earns 20x more than the other, who actually feels it more? If you go by absolute terms, yes, that is equal. But it's not unreasonable to look at things proportionately. If you lose 0.1% of your yearly income (please don't pick that number apart, I just made it up) for the crime, it becomes significantly more proportional to the value of money to the individual.


I understand your reasoning, but it doesn't hold up. Charging differently based on income is saying that the law applies differently to each individual; or that the crime of speeding has a different value depending on who you are. Imagine we extrapolated this, should someone younger face a longer prison term so it is the same proportion of their lifespan as someone who is older?
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby bentheimmigrant » Sat Sep 11, 2010 2:45 am UTC

mmmcannibalism wrote:I understand your reasoning, but it doesn't hold up. Charging differently based on income is saying that the law applies differently to each individual; or that the crime of speeding has a different value depending on who you are. Imagine we extrapolated this, should someone younger face a longer prison term so it is the same proportion of their lifespan as someone who is older?


Perhaps, although I'd say the "a day is still a day" argument is stronger than saying that a millionaire will be bothered about a $150 fine, compared to someone on minimum wage - that could be more than 1% of their annual income - how is that fair? Also, you can argue that older people should know better, and so getting the same penalty makes some sense, but for a rich person to be given a penalty that's practically a soft slap on the wrist with a wet noodle, well, that doesn't make sense - you can't extend that argument back to fines, and so we shouldn't have made our way to prison sentences in the first place. I think that if the fines are meant to be prohibitive, they should be so for everyone. If they're just there to raise money, then that's a different story.


Prison terms are a bit OT, so I'll spoiler it:
Spoiler:
First, I fundamentally disagree with prison terms in many cases - basically repeat and dangerous offenders I'm fine with locking up, but I don't see the benefit of it for many other cases. Additionally, I have wondered in the past if we should have sliding scales depending on age, but like I said, I'm not a fan of a majority of prison sentences, so I'd rather not take away 3 years of a kid's life and surround him with other criminals for that time. Way to breed a criminal culture guys. Rehabilitation, that's where it's at... So yeah, comparing fines and prison sentences doesn't sit with me because I believe fines work.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Kizyr » Sat Sep 11, 2010 2:49 am UTC

The principle of the idea makes sense. The main issue is administration, but I see some possible workarounds. Though first:

bentheimmigrant wrote:Personally, I think points systems on licenses achieves this in a much more efficient way than money, because everyone is given the same amount to "spend."

At least in the US, Federalism would complicate the enforcement of this. Traffic enforcement is local (to either state or county), so there are a lot of situations where you can't take a particular step because of it. For example, if I get stopped for speeding in Maryland, and I have a Virginia license/registration, they can charge me a fine but they can't deduct points from my license. Also, since I have a Virginia license, if I get stopped for speeding in my own state then the penalties are greater.

I'm assuming the same problem doesn't exist in the UK, since as far as I know there isn't the same level of local/state/federal government divide. Correct me if I'm wrong, though. I have no idea if there's any comparable issue to this in the Netherlands.

Anyway, administration of an income-based fine system would require a lot of information from the person who made the violation. You'd need something like their latest tax return, latest paystub (or equivalent), latest statements from any investment accounts (otherwise it'd unfairly target lower-income), proof of no income (if the person is unemployed, a student, not employed), etc. That's a lot to process just for one fine.

What'd be easier though is to assess a fine based on the value of the vehicle. It's imperfect, but far more administratively feasible. All you need is the make, model, and year (all clearly printed on the license), and the mileage (clearly visible on the dash), to get the blue book estimate of its value.

The flip-side, though, is that it could unfairly target some unintended groups. Someone who's lower-income but a car enthusiast (defined as the percent of income they spend on their car is greater than the average) would be harder-hit. Someone who received their car as a gift or direct transfer (say from a parent) would be harder-hit. Someone who's well-off but drives a cheap car would get off extremely easy (so if you speed, do it in a cheap ass-car). If I had more time to think on it, I'm sure I could come up with other ways it could possibly be regressive--though the examples I can come up with at the moment are admittedly pretty weak. KF
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Pansori » Sat Sep 11, 2010 3:00 am UTC

I was thinking of something similar to this the other day. On Labor Day I got pulled over and got 2 tickets and 2 warnings (so technically I was suppose to get 4 tickets :shock: ) The last ticket I received cost me over $200, the two tickets from the other day totals to $140. Although I was miffed about getting fined, I wasn't too irate as I have paid more. Anywho, I work for a home health care agency that caters to low income people and was actually on my way to a client's house. When I mentioned I got a ticket and told them the fine they were floored. Dare I say horrified. The mother kept saying that there is no way in hell she would pay a fine if it was that high. It struck me that although I'm no big money earner I did not stress half as much about my ticket as the low income family that I had told. Keep in mind these are people who make $600 a month, $300 of which goes to rent, not counting gas for car, cable, food, etc.

I also have an elderly client who is driving around with no insurance, no tags, no registration, hell no license. How he has managed to get away with it for so long is beyond me. I'm sure they would just haul his ass off to jail if he is ever pulled over.

It is certainly the case that fines paid are harsher on some than others.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Griffin » Sat Sep 11, 2010 3:01 am UTC

mmmcannabalism, its basic economics.

The more money you have, the less its worth to you. Think about income tax - the most conservative tax proposal with actual support I've seen is the flat tax - which is still a percentage! Rich people still pay more!

Its got a long, well supported precedent. We have agreed as a society that the basic element of fairness when dealing with paying money to the government is based on paying an equal portion of your worth rather than a a certain dollar value's worth.

I am guessing the only reason for the system being the way it is in the states right now is because its simpler to administer.

think about the actual results. Me (making 60 dollars a day) and Mr.McRich (making 600) both speed the same amount. Our fine is both $250.
For mr.McRich, that means he needs to skip going out to dinner every night this week.
For me, it means I lose my apartment and I'm out on the streets.
If we had both gone to jail for a three days, I would be out $180. He would be out 1800. Yet most people would consider this fair and equal. So why mirror that equality of effect with the fine?
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby mmmcannibalism » Sat Sep 11, 2010 3:03 am UTC

Perhaps, although I'd say the "a day is still a day" argument is stronger than saying that a millionaire will be bothered about a $150 fine, compared to someone on minimum wage - that could be more than 1% of their annual income - how is that fair?


The exact same penalty is being paid for the same crime.

Also, you can argue that older people should know better, and so getting the same penalty makes some sense,


Why should older people know better then younger people(especially beyond earl adulthood) not to speed?

I think that if the fines are meant to be prohibitive, they should be so for everyone. If they're just there to raise money, then that's a different story.


Which is why I agree the focus of traffic offenses should be the potential to lose driving privileges instead of generating revenue.

Kizyr wrote:At least in the US, Federalism would complicate the enforcement of this. Traffic enforcement is local (to either state or county), so there are a lot of situations where you can't take a particular step because of it. For example, if I get stopped for speeding in Maryland, and I have a Virginia license/registration, they can charge me a fine but they can't deduct points from my license. Also, since I have a Virginia license, if I get stopped for speeding in my own state then the penalties are greater.


I believe you can still revoke someones right to drive in your state even if they live outside of the state.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby bentheimmigrant » Sat Sep 11, 2010 3:06 am UTC

Yeah, we don't have jurisdiction problems over here. The Highway Code covers the whole country, and everything is pretty much cut and dried. Personally, I think that's the right way to do it, but I know that would never get through the pro-state/anti-federalist parts of US law and culture.

mmmcannibalism wrote:The exact same penalty is being paid for the same crime.

As I said, that's from an absolute standpoint, but it's not difficult to argue that the exact same thing with regards to proportional fines. *edit* As in, the same crime requires the same proportion of your income, and thus levelling it when it comes to the value of the fine to the person, and if it's meant to be prohibitive, then that's the important factor.

mmmcannibalism wrote:Why should older people know better then younger people(especially beyond earl adulthood) not to speed?

I was talking about jail time. I'm not aware of either of our countries throwing someone in jail for speeding.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Griffin » Sat Sep 11, 2010 3:11 am UTC

The exact same penalty is being paid for the same crime.

You aren't understanding - to the people being affected, it is NOT the same penalty. One person ending up having to choose between eating and rent, and another buying a cheaper bottle of wine, is not the same penalty. Value is relative.

Which is why I agree the focus of traffic offenses should be the potential to lose driving privileges instead of generating revenue.


Note, I DO agree with you on this. I think fines are horrible for a whole bunch of reasons. If they went away altogether, I'd be much better off. But losing driving privileges isn't enough, because people will drive anyways. Do you support jail time for them in that situation?

I'm not aware of either of our countries throwing someone in jail for speeding.

I wish this was an actual option. I haven't had a speeding ticket in four years, but back when I lived next to a speed trap and before I figured it out, I racked up a hefty fine and would gladly have accepted a couple days in jail over the two hundred dollar fine, considering I was between jobs and living off of savings.

But then, I've noticed in most situations like that, its "pay 50 dollar fine or spend two weeks in prison" which doesn't make any sense to me.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby JBJ » Sat Sep 11, 2010 3:16 am UTC

When you compare the impact of a fine on a lower income vs. higher income by comparing it to food, housing, etc... it's not comparing apples to apples. If rich people paid a higher premium for comparable food, services, and housing it would make sense. Sure, rich people pay more for bigger housing and higher quality food, but they are getting what they pay for. A millionaire who orders a #6 meal at McDonald's pays $5.47, same as a lower income earner. Surely you're not arguing that a low income person should only pay $1.27 for the meal while the millionaire pays $86.23 to make it relative to their income.

I know we're talking about fines here, but we're also talking about choice. If both the high and low income people want a #6 meal, they make that choice. They both go into the transaction knowing what they have to pay if they want that meal. When they speed, run a red light, or break some other minor traffic law, they are also making a choice. They are consciously acting in a manner that could cost them money. If they both go in to an action by making a choice, why should we treat them any differently?
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Griffin » Sat Sep 11, 2010 3:36 am UTC

Because we don't want obeying the law to be a "choice" people make based on how much spare cash they have.

We have laws (usually) because doing those things can have severe, life altering consequences for other uninvolved parties.

If we consider it a choice, we want it to be a choice where "speeding" is nearly always the worse option.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby JBJ » Sat Sep 11, 2010 4:26 am UTC

Obeying the law is a choice based on economic principles. If the reward to commit a crime is greater than the penalty for getting caught, then the logical choice is to commit the crime.

Using speeding as the example, what level of utility does one get? In most cases, it gets you to your destination faster. Is it worth getting to your destination faster if it costs you $150 extra? In most cases, I'd wager not. Not even for the wealthy. Sure, it's not as big an impact to them in the long run, but wealthy people don't like to spend money unnecessarily.

If the utility is simply the pleasure of driving fast, why not rent some time at a local speedway. For the price of 3-4 average speeding tickets, you can do the Richard Petty Driving Experience, and drive faster than you could probably ever want to in a car with 4 times the horsepower. (I've done it, it's fun)

If the penalties for speeding are scaled relative to wealth or income, you're only making it more likely to encourage speeding for the lower income. If it was prohibitive to speed at $150 a ticket, it's less prohibitive at $30 a ticket. All you've succeeded in is making it more prohibitive for the wealthy, and they only make up 5-10% of the population. The lower income group, say under 25K per year, makes up close to 50% of the population.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Dark567 » Sat Sep 11, 2010 4:56 am UTC

What this argument is fundamentally about is how we value money. Which there are two basic theories on.

The first is what I will call "money as a measurement". This holds that money is a measure of value of an object, the same way in the same way a meter is a measurement of length. Both lengths and value are natural, while meters and money are made up by humans as an objective way to measure lengths and value. If this theory is accurate, $100 for rich dude is the exactly worth the same value as for the poor dude: $100. Any further argument about the value of that as meaningless, as you can't argue that value has different values. If this theory were true, of course we should fine everyone the exact same amount.

The other theory is that money should be treated like any other commodity, where people subjectively value it differently(i.e. not everyone values pizza as much as I do). This basically says that value between people is impossible to compare. This would suggest(although its not completely clear) that we should fine differently based on how much the criminal values money.

For most intents and purpose economists are more likely to use the first theory, not because they really believe its more accurate, but because it leads to some models that are impossible with the second. I imagine for many situations, they actually believe the second theory to be true.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Gelsamel » Sat Sep 11, 2010 5:28 am UTC

Actually the second theory is demonstratably true, and money as a measure of 'instrinsic value' doesn't make sense at all since value is a projectivist property and cannot be instrinsic.

Economists might use the first theory, but generally they'd talk about value being the value that "The Market" assigns something, which does not translate well when it comes to individuals (as with anything in statistics). Something having the market value of X has only a tangential effect on how much a particular individual values that.

Therefore if the purpose of fines is simply to raise money (and not to deter) it would make sense to have a static fee since the government is a statistically significant entity that only cares about the money it gets from statistically significant set of the populus and does not deal in projectivist value of speeding but an expectation value of the value of speeding (which will be tended towards the bulk income).

However if we're concerned with deterance then it's the individuals that matter at which point we have to take into account how they value money vs how they value speeding. How to do that, though, is another question altogether and a much more difficult one at that.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Griffin » Sat Sep 11, 2010 6:48 am UTC

If the penalties for speeding are scaled relative to wealth or income, you're only making it more likely to encourage speeding for the lower income. If it was prohibitive to speed at $150 a ticket, it's less prohibitive at $30 a ticket. All you've succeeded in is making it more prohibitive for the wealthy, and they only make up 5-10% of the population. The lower income group, say under 25K per year, makes up close to 50% of the population.


There's no evidence this statement is true, because there's no reason you can't have the baseline cost of speeding tickets be what they are right now, and scale up.

Obeying the law is a choice based on economic principles. If the reward to commit a crime is greater than the penalty for getting caught, then the logical choice is to commit the crime

Which is why its important, as I said, to making the choice to break the law a bad choice.

Which is why, as mentioned before, I think punishments like driving restrictions up to prison time are far better than fines, but if we're going to use fines, make them fair, and make the punative effect roughly equal amongst those who break the law.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Dark567 » Sat Sep 11, 2010 9:00 am UTC

Gelsamel wrote:Actually the second theory is demonstratably true, and money as a measure of 'instrinsic value' doesn't make sense at all since value is a projectivist property and cannot be instrinsic.

Economists might use the first theory, but generally they'd talk about value being the value that "The Market" assigns something, which does not translate well when it comes to individuals (as with anything in statistics). Something having the market value of X has only a tangential effect on how much a particular individual values that.


Uh, you really haven't demonstrated the second theory as true. Value is a completely subjective property, yes. Both theories are compatible with that though. The first theory claims money is an objective way to measure the subjective value a person puts on something. For example, lets take two people, one is willing to pay $1for a slice of pizza, the second is willing to pay $2. Under the first theory, it is claimed that the second person values the slice twice as much as the first person(the measurement of value is objective even if the placement of value is subjective). Under the second theory it is possible they both value the slice the same, but the second person values money only half as much.

It is obvious that the market price for something can differ from what is someone is willing to pay. This only shows that people value different objects subjectively, which both theories are compatible with.

The first theory doesn't claim that money is a measure of 'intrinsic value', it claims that money is an objective measure of the subjective values of people.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby elasto » Sat Sep 11, 2010 10:02 am UTC

As far as I know, most fines imposed by a court take into account both the seriousness of the crime and the means of the perpetrator to pay, and I don't think most people would regard that as unfair. The only reason speeding fines aren't done the same way is pure administrative convenience.

When I went to court over a motoring offence about 15 years ago I was asked for details of my income before the fine was announced and I personally didn't find that inequitable.

So, yes, fixed fines are disproportionally burdensome on the poor vs the rich, but, in a way, jail sentences are disproportionally burdensome on middle class people with families vs an unemployed single person. It's why, wherever possible, any legal penalty should be determined based on individual circumstances and not fixed/mandated by law.

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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Gelsamel » Sat Sep 11, 2010 10:11 am UTC

Dark567 wrote:
Gelsamel wrote:Actually the second theory is demonstratably true, and money as a measure of 'instrinsic value' doesn't make sense at all since value is a projectivist property and cannot be instrinsic.

Economists might use the first theory, but generally they'd talk about value being the value that "The Market" assigns something, which does not translate well when it comes to individuals (as with anything in statistics). Something having the market value of X has only a tangential effect on how much a particular individual values that.


Uh, you really haven't demonstrated the second theory as true.


I know I didn't. I just stated that it is demonstratably true. To demonstrate it; Simply ask more than one person to value, in monetary terms, anything.


Value is a completely subjective property, yes. Both theories are compatible with that though. The first theory claims money is an objective way to measure the subjective value a person puts on something. For example, lets take two people, one is willing to pay $1for a slice of pizza, the second is willing to pay $2. Under the first theory, it is claimed that the second person values the slice twice as much as the first person(the measurement of value is objective even if the placement of value is subjective). Under the second theory it is possible they both value the slice the same, but the second person values money only half as much.


Perhaps I've misunderstood you.

In the way you've presented it (and I've read it); The first theory is that money (or price) measures the inherent value of an item. You relate it to using the meter as a measurement of lenght? The meter is a unit of measurement of a real natural and intrinsic property, regardless of who measures a length X it will come out in the same number of our particularly defined unit. The fact that one is willing to pay $1 and the other $2 is a demonstration that, indeed, there is no intrinsic worth that our money measures, it is all a projection of value. The fact that we also value money at different levels also falsifies the idea that currency is a measuring stick in the sense of a meter ruler.

Dark547 wrote:The first theory doesn't claim that money is a measure of 'intrinsic value', it claims that money is an objective measure of the subjective values of people.
Dark547 wrote:Both lengths and value are natural, while meters and money are made up by humans as an objective way to measure lengths and value.


Perhaps this is where the misunderstanding is?

The fact is we do treat the market as though it reprisents the mean individual and as though market prices reprisent intrinsic value. The reason this is done is the same reason that I, as a physicist, use pV = nRT. It's abstraction that, as you said, leads to useful theory that you otherwise can not achieve if you build up from the assumption that essentially how any particular person values something, even money, is arbitrary.

In any case, regardless of any misunderstanding between us, the fact that one can value money to differing degrees should be demonstration enough for your second theory. And regardless of misunderstanding the first theory is the more useful statistical assumption, that breaks down at the individual level.
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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Calorus » Sat Sep 11, 2010 12:12 pm UTC

The value of money is indeed completely subjective and is the reason for the ineffectiveness of markets.

The alleged 'fairness' of markets, especially one-to-many markets, presupposes that every potential customer has the same potential budget, which, demonstrably, could barely be further from the case.

Wheat prices, standardised across the globe express the value to American and European food companies who can process it and sell it to wealthy consumers. It must, however, also reflect the prices to poor African and Asian countries the cost of whose RDA in wheat is all but guaranteed to be in excess of their daily wages, whilst the average daily wages of an American would in buy excess of 0.5 tonnes...

Just as this disparity which drives the differences between the value of any given quantity of food, is entirely unrepresented by a global wheat price, any fixed rate price for those of varied means will create a materially different value to the payor.

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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby CorruptUser » Tue Sep 14, 2010 3:52 am UTC

If value of money is relative, guess what else is? Time in prison. To someone used to an opulent lifestyle, going to prison is a lot harsher than it is to someone from "the streetz". Even merely being forced to live a middle-class lifestyle may be torture to someone born a billionaire. You can argue that different races (on average) suffer more, or less, by going to prison. Genders, sexual orientation, even age, muscle mass, weight, attractiveness, etc, can affect the hell that is prison in better or worse ways.

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When that Hilton <pejorative> went to prison, she had a nervous breakdown. Same thing happened to the Lohan <insult>. I'm not the prison's psychologist, so I can't say for sure, but I believe they weren't faking. Imagine going from butlers to butch bunkmates. Now add in that many people in prison wouldn't mind becoming infamous as 'that crazy woman who messed up that starlet's face'.


So if fines should be increased for the wealthy, shouldn't prison sentences be lessened?

I'm playing Devil's Advocate here, but the law should never change based on your wealth, gender, race, age (once 18 anyway), height, or eye color.

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Re: Fixed fines create class justice?

Postby Dark567 » Tue Sep 14, 2010 4:00 am UTC

Gelsamel wrote:
Perhaps I've misunderstood you.

In the way you've presented it (and I've read it); The first theory is that money (or price) measures the inherent value of an item. You relate it to using the meter as a measurement of lenght? The meter is a unit of measurement of a real natural and intrinsic property, regardless of who measures a length X it will come out in the same number of our particularly defined unit. The fact that one is willing to pay $1 and the other $2 is a demonstration that, indeed, there is no intrinsic worth that our money measures, it is all a projection of value. The fact that we also value money at different levels also falsifies the idea that currency is a measuring stick in the sense of a meter ruler.

Yeah, I didn't explain that very well. The theory is that money measures how much the person values the object, not any intrinsic value of the object itself.



Gelsamel wrote:The fact is we do treat the market as though it reprisents the mean individual and as though market prices reprisent intrinsic value. The reason this is done is the same reason that I, as a physicist, use pV = nRT. It's abstraction that, as you said, leads to useful theory that you otherwise can not achieve if you build up from the assumption that essentially how any particular person values something, even money, is arbitrary.

In any case, regardless of any misunderstanding between us, the fact that one can value money to differing degrees should be demonstration enough for your second theory.


Yes, we do act as though market represents intrinsic value, but that is demonstrably false and the theory doesn't depend on it, because it measures how much the person values the object, which obviously varies.
The very claim of the first theory is basically that one can't value money to differing degrees, because money is a measurement of value, just stating the opposite doesn't really do anything.
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