Feature

The $290,000 speeding ticket

Thanks to European road rules that target the rich, a Swiss multi-millionaire was fined a fortune. Are the new laws unfair?

As thrillingly reckless as it might seem to drive a Ferrari Testarossa at 85 mph in a 50 mph zone, don't try it in Switzerland — unless you're willing to cough up $290,000. Like law authorities in an increasingly number of European countries, Swiss courts take the speeding driver's income into account when tallying the fine. The Ferrari driver in question, a repeat offender, was worth $20 million; hence, the massive penalty. Good idea or completely discriminatory?

Good for you, Switzerland: This should be applauded, says Ann Althouse on her blog. A fine will never be an effective deterrent "unless you take the individual into account." A speeding millionaire shouldn't be able to "casually buy his way into having the rules not apply to him" if the fine is something that may "burden lesser folk" but is "nothing to him."
"How do you figure a $290,000 fine for speeding?"

This intriguingly ruthless strategy is environmentally sound:
This isn't about "Commies soaking the rich," says Lloyd Alter at Treehugger, but about slowing people down. And that's a really good idea in terms of saving lives, saving fuel, and letting drivers of small cars feel "more comfortable on the road."
"A Fine Idea: $290,000 Speeding Ticket Is Proportional To Income. Do You Agree?"

But it won't work: The only question here is whether levying income-linked fines "actually does anything to deter law-breaking by the very rich," says Catherine Rampell in The New York Times. Unfortunately, my "gut reaction" says no. Despite what "traditional economics" might have you believe, people don't engage in "cost-benefit analysis" when deciding whether or not to "commit crimes."
"Should the Fine You Pay Be Based on How Rich You Are?"

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