“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.


There are only a few people in the world that would have me hunting for the annual reports of Helsinki before I've had my coffee.


In the United States, a disturbing percentage of operational budgets comes from fines and civil forfeiture. For example, the DEA has an operational budget of $30b a year and they take about $300m a year from people who don't even end up charged with a crime. For example, here's the budget for Los Angeles. Of LA's $9b budget, a billion dollars comes from "other fees, fines and taxes" of which nearly $200m comes from parking tickets alone. Helsinki's budget, on the other hand, includes the line "0 million euros" from a dog tax.

Here's the 2017 report of the Finnish police. As an American this in and of itself is novel - the idea that a nation has a "police department" rather than the patchwork of fiefdoms we have here. Between my house in Seattle and the birth center 10 minutes away we go through two jurisdictions; between my house and the airport I go through one city, the state police (on the freeway), another city, and then when I get to the airport I'm dealing with the port police and none of those guys cooperate (or draw from the same budget). You'll note that they get zero money from fines. In fact, they whinge on there about how their income went down because 68m in revenue from red light cameras went to the department of transportation rather than them.

That's all of Finland. My town in WA, official population 38,000, makes about $2m a year on red light cameras. That's part of the operating budget. That's what we keep the roads paved with. That's what pays for the fire department.

The incentives are completely asymmetrical. Nowhere in Finland is there a cop sitting on an empty road waiting for tourists to come by at 5mph over because there's no other way to keep his kids' school open.

And, not to put too fine a point on it, Finland is ethnically homogeneous. If you get pulled over in Finland, it's because you're speeding. Nobody in Finland has ever heard "sorry, sir, I thought you were Mexican" like I have in Los Angeles. Nobody in Finland has ever given up his Ferrari because he was sick of being pulled over three times a week like my Ph.D-in-Ethnomusicology-teaches-at-Cal-Arts-Worked-With-Quincy-Jones black neighbor.

There's a fundamental assumption in Europe that police operate fairly, assuming you aren't one of those dirty brown people from Syria or Algeria. There's a fundamental assumption in the US that the police are robbing, prejudicial privateers.

In the US this would become a rapper-and-basketball-player tax. What you'd see is massive tickets against African Americans who were uppity enough to buy a BMW or Mercedes. It would become a mechanism by which the trade school crackers with badges and guns could shake down those uppity negros in their too-good-for-us rides and it would be ugly.

posted by veen: 11 days ago