Thursday, August 16, 2012

A More Just World

When the issue of economic inequality comes up, this Anatole France quote usually turns up:
The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.
And a good laugh is had all around. Did you know that in other parts of the world the law actually punishes some crimes on the basis of the perpetrator's wealth? In Switzerland and Finland at least if you are rich and speed your fine is determined by "the severity of the offense and the offender's income level."

One rich driving like a mad man was fine 290k in Switzerland, while the chairman of Nokia faced a 100 odd thousand dollar fine, and one particularly insane rich faces a fine that falls 40,000 dollars short of a million.

So lets do that with, say, property crimes. Poor and shoplift a pair of pants? 60 dollar fine; rich and shop lift a the same kind of pants, 10% of pre-tax income. Rich and embezzle?  50% of total wealth and 10 years in jail.  Poor and steal a neighbors digital camera? Give the camera back or replace and a week in jail.  And so on.

The idea is basically to make the punishment fit the advantages gained by any individual from being  a member of society.

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