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13.10.2007

EU Fines: Finland is on a collision course.

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 10:09 am

All the EU countries now have the right since about March to send fines to other EU countries for collection. Cooperation, however, has been slow to start up between countries. In France, for example, about 2 million Germans are caught on camera speeding each year. Soon, France will have a reputation as a place where you can drive as fast as you want without any consequences, if they don’t start doing something. There are similar problems elsewhere. Finland is soon to have unique problems of its own.

In the case of Finland, we are on a clear collision course with this new law. With the current legislation, where day fines are liberally applied in all sorts of minor infractions, one of two things can happen:

1. Finland actually succeeds in getting the income information about some high income person from another EU country who was caught speeding here on camera. A fine for a 5 or 6 figure number is sent over. Outrage in the press follows. The fine will probably be ignored or go to court and be overturned or lowered to a normal level (a few hundred Euros). The person may be shocked have his or her income exposed in the international media, probably together with their picture in the expected, tasteless Finnish style. More court cases for privacy invasion may follow in the person’s own country and perhaps even in an international court involving Finland. (Income information is considered very private in the rest of the EU countries.) Investigations may be launched and Finland may be accused of corruption. The case may go to the European Court of Justice or to the European Commission.

Basically, it would achieve a similar result as if Finland fired a missile into that country.

2. Finland will quietly give “normal fines” (meaning fixed fines for a hundred or few hundred Euros) to foreigners caught on camera here and nationally discriminate against its own people, which will also eventually lead to outrage, a press heyday, and possible legal repercussions.

Conclusion 1: The current Day Fine system in Finland is doomed.

What should be done now? For starters, the day fine system needs to be junked ASAP. Day fines should only be used to punish serious offenses that warrant actual jail time as a monetary substitute for the jail time. Then, the holes in the legislation allowing this kind of thing to happen need to be plugged. The current Finnish day fine system is a brainchild of the tax-calendar generation. These are people who have spent a lot of time staring at lists of each others’ incomes and wealth. Someone gets a speeding ticket and wah! wah!, he has so much money, he should pay more, wah!, wah!. It’s not fair, wah!, wah!. And voilà, soon we have this kind of legislation that comes and bites us in the arse later. The tax calendars were stopped because of the amount of complaints and the problems it was causing from a decision in the tax authority in about 1984. So why do we have something like Veropörssi again nowadays? Its like a dog that returns to its own puddle of vomit to eat it – we are in the same place again. The holes in the legislation were not plugged.

The old Swedish custom the Swedish crown used of getting peasant farmers to police each others tax paying is sort of irrelevant nowadays, isn’t it? Or do the people in that tax office use an abacus to count peoples’ taxes? Is it really the neighbour’s business to police my income and tax records? Should our incomes be in Veropörssi, floating around in the Internet?

Conclusion 2: The tax records need to be made private. The only possible exception should be with politicians, only after signing a letter of consent before taking office.

Finnish article in Helsingin Sanomat regarding EU fines, with some interesting discussion. It is all in Finnish, unfortunately for those who don’t speak it.

  • Zarr

    …..right, and what’s your suggestion to prevent richer people from just paying those “few hundred euro fines” and considering it just a form of road toll that allows driving a bit faster?

  • http://fi.bemmu.com/b Bemmu

    While I agree that fining across EU borders might be tricky, I don’t think we should scrap our system. The point of high fines for people with high incomes is not envy. Giving flat fines to wealthy people would not be much different from just completely eliminating the fines for them.

  • http://www.verosirkus.com sirkuspelle

    @1, @2, since it was already shown in 1994 to not work, and no other country uses a system like this, it will be no loss. A point system would be a good way of punishing people who drive badly on a regular basis, and would work equally well with international drivers.

    We just have to say goodbye. There is already new legislation in the works.

    Denmark and Sweden don’t have any unusual traffic problems, but have similar circumstances with the weather, amount of people, etc. Neither of those countries give more than a 3 figure fine for typical traffic infractions.

  • mh

    Basically, it would achieve a similar result as if Finland fired a missile into that country.

    What the hell? :)

    #1: A point system. You break the rules -> they take points from your license. Lose enough points -> say bye bye to your license.

    #2: The point of high fines for people with high incomes is not envy.

    Why not? Finns are very envious people after all.

    Giving flat fines to wealthy people would not be much different from just completely eliminating the fines for them.

    I agree. That’s why the points system is superior to the current system.

  • http://www.finlandforthought.net Phil

    …..right, and what’s your suggestion to prevent richer people from just paying those “few hundred euro fines” and considering it just a form of road toll that allows driving a bit faster?

    How does it work in all other countries? A point system. The same points and suspension of licenses for both the rich and poor.

  • http://www.finlandforthought.net Phil

    How has the old system worked – A German gets busted for speeding in Finland, does he just ignore the ticket, or ??

  • mh

    How has the old system worked – A German gets busted for speeding in Finland, does he just ignore the ticket, or ??

    There’s hardly enough Germans or other foreigners in Finland to make any difference. The system works just as well despite them.

  • Herkku

    Missiles, tabloids, international outrage. Sounds like a page from the scaremongering playbook to me. I almost thought that winter got a guest blogger gig.
    While I support privacy, I strongly support the day fine systems. Points, schmpoints, nothing makes you drive slower than a good chunk of cash. The foreigners that want the privilege of driving (and speeding) on Finnish roads should know and expect to pay dayfines. Post notices on car-rental places, road signs, whatever, and let them know.
    As for conclusion 2, all for it.

  • Mikael

    So what’s the Idealistic Libertarian solution to this? Anarchy?

  • http://www.verosirkus.com sirkuspelle

    @6: Currently, if a German is busted on camera, probably nothing. For the same offense, a Finnish resident can get even up to a 5 or 6 figure fine with no upper limit.

    If a German gets busted by an actual policeman, the policeman should have the German tell his or her income, and the write a fine based on it. The policeman can also write a simple fixed fine. The German can probably leave the country without ever paying it. I am not sure if it will show when the same German tries to come back into Finland.

    If the German contests the fine, then the fine amount and income amount will be made public from the court records. If he or she is an interesting person or has an interesting income, that person will automatically get into the media. Google “Finnish speeding tickets” and you can find stories from even 5 years ago with names, pictures, incomes, fine amounts. There may even be mention of some peoples’ wealth from the older stories.

  • http://www.verosirkus.com sirkuspelle

    @9 The ultimate libertarian highway: The Autobahn in Germany. Drive as fast as you want.

  • JG

    And how does one put points on the holder of a licence issued by another country, especially a non-EU country?

  • nipsu

    Sirkuspelle:

    There is something intoxicating about the Autobahn and generally the drivers are top notch, as they pretty much have to be to survive. I must have a libertarian sensibility because even though I don’t drive in the left lane often on the Autobahn, I like the idea that I can…(actually, a bit like mushrooms in Amsterdam: I don’t buy mushrooms there, but will miss the fact that it is possible).

    I am glad to know that tickets for foreigners are generally NOT enforced because I still have a bunch of unpaid Italian parking tickets.

  • unlce sam

    Some of you guys are so full of shit is unbelievable… this is what really happens: You are caught speeding, the cops stop you so you show them your foreign driver license and pretend you do not understand Finnish. Since they cannot pull your income information, you tell them that you are unemployed and earn €500 per month.

    Result, a low fine even when you make a lot of money (which I don’t but it could be the case for someone else), and no points.

    Fair system, you tell me. The only people getting screwed are the Finns who have no other choice.

    And, by the way, how do I know this… well it has worked for me twice already

  • http://www.verosirkus.com sirkuspelle

    @12 There is a database. The license plate number is put in the database when the driver looses (or gains) the first point. When enough points are gained (or lost, however you want to look at it) then the driver is stopped at the border, or pulled over by the police when the license number is noticed, and the car is impounded. Someone else must come with a “power of attorney” letter to drive it out. A fixed fine is charged for the impounding of the car to cover expenses. For infractions caught on camera, it shows pretty clearly if it is the same driver or not.

    There are plenty of ways of doing things. Look around the world. When you have people staring at lists of each others’ incomes, they only see one way of doing things – take their money.

  • http://www.verosirkus.com sirkuspelle

    Correction: I mentioned in @3 “1994″. That should have been 2004.

  • JG

    You can’t do it by number plate, it is not driver specific (many foreigners will be driving a hired car for instance). It’s also rather hard to have a computer system that will understand foreign driving licence numbers etc, so as to keep a tag on it.
    In the UK, which has a points system, persons with a non-UK driving licence are not given points, instead they have to attend court for it to be dealt with in another way. This happened to a Swedish colleague of mine driving on his Swedish licence.

    Until there is a more meaningful cooperation between countries on such matters, it is hard to implement a solution that does not “discriminate” in some ways against non-residents. Not ideal I agree, but reality. For instance, Stockholm does not even bother to try and make its congestion charge payable by non-Swedish registered cars. It realises that it would be almost impossible to implement.

  • Ronald Bates

    sirkuspelle,

    you are absolutely right: the day fine system needs to become a sordid tale in Finland’s history. Finland needs to plug ALL holes and stop illegally leaking people’s financial information. Either Finland can make changes on its own, or the European Court needs to step in.

    Just curious – where is Kristian’s opinion on this? Doesn’t he usually comment on Finland’s messed up data privacy situation?

    Regards

  • http://www.verosirkus.com sirkuspelle

    @17 It’s also rather hard to have a computer system that will understand foreign driving licence numbers etc, so as to keep a tag on it:

    You only need the number and the country. There is no need to really understand anything. The number or string of characters can be just that in the database, a string of characters that can be found again, together with the country, if the police look for it. The police can also request the identity of the owner from the other country.

    @17 (many foreigners will be driving a hired car for instance):

    5 minutes of work by the police by making a phone call to the car rental company will tell who has rented the car and who was driving it at the time of the infraction. There are laws covering exactly this type of situation. 5 minutes of work to get a few hundred Euros of fines from someone who was speeding…

  • sepisp

    Actually speeding tickets could be based on the price of the car. At least for foreigners. That should be fairer than giving the minimum fine (115 e) to all foreigners.

  • JG

    It’s not that simple, I really wish it were. But there has to be some kind of confirmation in the computer system, it is not enough to just store a random number without some kind of connection that confirms that the number is actually a legitimate driving licence number that matches with the particular licence you are checking…otherwise anyone with a penchant for speeding could just get themselves a fake foreign licence.

    For instance (not relating to driving licences), Finland and Sweden have an agreement where they have access to each other’s registry systems, so Finnish authorities can enquire on a Swedish personal identity number (henkilötunnus/personnummer) and vice versa.

    I am not arguing against a points system. I actually think it is potentially a very good idea, perhaps even used in conjunction with the current system. However, I can not see how it would be any easier to enforce against non-residents/foreigners than the current day-fine system is.

    I still don’t understand why you have this obsession with privacy of financial data and why you are against the equality of deterrence that is one of the benefits of a day-fine system.

    The other part of your argument seems to stem from the potential unequal treatment (interesting that you are interesting in equality here) of residents and non-residents or of Finnish citizens against non-Finnish citizens. Of course, it would be desirable for everyone to be treated equally but there has to be some room for realism. There are countless instances where it simply is not realistically or practically possibly to ensure absolute equality. I have mentioned the driving related example of Stockholm’s congestion charge above. But if you think to other areas of society, for example only Finnish citizens can join the Police and non-Finnish citizen residents don’t have to do military service. Are these things also unfair?

  • Freeridin’ Franklin

    Day fines should only be used to punish serious offenses that warrant actual jail time as a monetary substitute for the jail time.

    Hey, this has to be one of the best ideas presented on this blog! How many day fines would be suitable for murder?

    Of course, this would compromise the murderers privacy with regard to his income, which is a big no-no.

  • winter “Yea, Proton Power, now in remission”

    Gee, anothe feel good liberal idea. Lets fine bye the wallet size.

    Gee, just ask them to dump their wallets out, and take it all. We all know the rich will have a wad of bills in there.

    Gee, liberal ideas in action. Just love them.

    This is just class warfare. Nothing else.

  • Freeridin’ Franklin

    winnie, are you implying that rich people are criminals by nature?

    In any case, I’m anxious to start my contract killing agency, inspired by Sirkuspelle’s magnificent idea of replacing prison sentences with day fines.

    Of course, I will have to take out bigger and bigger target as my costs will rise with my
    income. Before long, I will be whacking US presidents and Finland will have another billionaire.

    Conservative ideas, gotta love them.

  • winter “Yea, Proton Power, now in remission”

    “rich people are criminals by nature?”, well yes, from the liberal point of view. Gee those rich guys need to pay more, and more, and more.

    No wonder you have no billionaires.

  • Freeridin’ Franklin

    winnie:
    No wonder you have no billionaires.

    Have the paint fumes really gotten to you this time? I believe we’ve been through this.

  • Anonymous

    JG – “I still don’t understand why you have this obsession with privacy of financial data”

    Judging by your comments, I’ll assume that either you are very young or just naive. Most Finns are naive when it comes to business, finances and what is proper behavior regarding privacy.

  • Freeridin’ Franklin

    JG:
    “I still don’t understand why you have this obsession with privacy of financial data”

    He doesn’t. He’s perfectly fine with companies peddling financial data. It’s just the state’s involvement he objects to.

  • http://www.verosirkus.com Sirkuspelle

    Impounding peoples’ cars is also an idea for people who consistently drive badly. This hurts everyone equally.

    The currently system has to go.

    The original day fine system was probably quite good legislation. Get out of jail time by paying the would-be-lost salary instead. But the tax-calendar generation made a joke out of it.

  • Freeridin’ Franklin

    “Impounding peoples’ cars is also an idea for people who consistently drive badly. This hurts everyone equally.”

    Yeah. Impounding a rental or a 15-year old Lada Samara hurts, like, really bad. Not to mention stolen cars.

  • JT

    Ronald Bates: “Finland needs to plug ALL holes and stop illegally leaking people’s financial information.”

    It is not illegal in Finland. If something is illegal in some other country, for example, in USA, then it doesn’t mean it is illegal in Finland.

    Similarly we could say that USA is illegally banning people riding (and not driving) a car drinking alcohol.

  • http://www.verosirkus.com Sirkuspelle

    @30 Impounding the Lada hurts if you are the cleaning lady who uses it to get to work.

    Impounding a rental car hurts, because the rental car company has your credit card number and will not hesitate to use it to pay for getting the car back.

    If the police stop someone for speeding who has a stolen car, that person will have a whole lot more to worry about than just the speeding violation or getting the car impounded.

    Freeridin’ Franklin: no offense, but your claim had no logic to it nor does it have much consideration behind it.

  • mh

    #31: Isn’t it against some EU law or something?

  • Ronald Bates

    JT: “It is not illegal in Finland. If something is illegal in some other country, for example, in USA, then it doesn’t mean it is illegal in Finland.”

    It is illegal according to EU legislation. Finland is a member of the EU. That was already explained in comments above.

  • David

    How many points should be deducted for deaths caused by a car accident?

    Bad drivers don’t turn good from a ‘fairer’ fine system. Put it this way, a negative reinforcement (punishment) does not necessarily follow/provide a positive one (driving responsibly.) Driving responsibly is formed on many aspects – education, a strict driving school/exam, and social responsibility. E.g., don’t let your drunk friend drive home himself; don’t rush through a yellow-light; respect the pedestrians. Even if you build a ‘safer’ car, people will find a way to kill themselves (or others) with it.

    I don’t know if Sirkuspelle and Kristian are the same person, but they do share a habit of making contradictory statements in the same post. Point 1 in the main post says Finnish police issues a fine to foreigners according to their income. Yet point 2 says the police issues a nominal fine. Also, it’s unclear (and contradictory) if the foreigners would be subject to a speeding fine or not. (Or if Finland were able to access foreigners tax info. However it’s safe to know that Finland should try to ask US government, who has obtained millions of SWIFT transaction entries without regarding EU privacy acts. SWIFT transactions are not tax info – they are day-to-day electronic money-transfer. It’s not the same, but I am sure that will do.)

    How to calculate speeding fine? Some countries (at least the ones I know of), use the exceeded speed to calculate the fine. The more is exceeded, the higher the fine. It’s less controversial, but again, it’s ineffective for really bad drivers.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Autobahns
    “German autobahns have no general speed limit (though about 50% of the total length is subject to local and/or conditional limits), but the recommended speed is 130 km/h maximum.” Read the entry for more information.

  • http://a anon

    How about not just fucking driving over the speed limit? HUH?!

  • Antti rn

    Given the metric presented in this thread demonstrates once again how everything was better in Kekkoslovakia:

    - Speed limits. There was even period, when there were no speed limits at all. After the limits were implemented, everyone could lie their incomes to the police as they had no ways to check it.

    - The bank secrecy was still bank secrecy. You could open an account under name Donald Duck and deposit a couple millions. No questions asked, nothing revealed to the taxman.

    - The telephone secrecy was still telephone secrecy. The police had not right to eavesdrop, no matter what. One officer was even fined for overhearing suspects phone call and trying to use it as an evidence.

    - Most of the legislation concerning stock exchange etc. was probably still signed by Nikolai II, who had never heard about exploiting insider information and stuff => no state interference with your businesses.

    - OK, there was the dreaded tax calendar, but plenty of legal ways (at that time) to keep your entry not matching your true assets, i.e. according to the information theory not containing any information about you.

  • unlce sam

    @34

    Also, it’s unclear (and contradictory) if the foreigners would be subject to a speeding fine or not. (Or if Finland were able to access foreigners tax info.

    Read my post 14.

    The answer in NO

  • Fat Bastard

    I seem to remember that it is (or was) possible for the police to confiscate the driver’s license after 3 speeding offenses. That should be applied to habitual offenders of foreign persuasion. They would then be able to collect their license from their local consulate on their way out of the country.

    Also day fines could be instantly invoked using the usual 2:1 (or is it 3:1 now?) jail time conversion.

  • Mikael

    Fining by wallet size is just fine – it should hurt and hell it wouldn’t hurt as much to a person making 6 figures a year that would to a single mom making 20 000. The point is that it should hurt, not be a sissy “you’ve been a bad boy”-fine.
    I have a relative who, a couple of years ago, ended up paying a really large sum, I think it was around 30 000 – 40 000€, and after that he really improved his driving habits and hasn’t been speeding since. It did in other words work very well.

  • Anonymous

    I have a relative who, a couple of years ago, ended up paying a really large sum, I think it was around 30 000 – 40 000€, and after that he really improved his driving habits and hasn’t been speeding since.

    What about his reckless 19 year old son, who has only one-year driving experience, and who earns almost no income?` Did he also improve his driving habits?

    Get with the program you brainwashed Fins. Your system is illegal and your going to get busted. Hope the EU levies its own fines against Finland.

  • http://a anon

    #40
    The fuck is it illegal, we are in Finland.

  • uncle sam

    I swear that some people that write in this blog are denser than lead… This day fine is totally unfair for the reasons I have posted already in #14 and the only persons who suffer are the Finns themselves, not the foreigners who equally break the law because all other countries rightfully deny access to other people’s tax records ! End of story

  • Antti rn

    So we need to abolish the whole system, because few foreigners may get away with speeding?

    Risking to get Osmium qualification, leaving those few dishonest foreigners out of equation, what exactly is unfair about the system? Everybody just dedicates given amount of day’s work for the common good and gets equal gap in the wallet, unless you are Scrooge MacDuck and love every penny.

  • JG

    It maybe that the people of Laihia are contributing a lot to this conversation. :)

  • Pikku Possu

    “So we need to abolish the whole system, because few foreigners may get away with speeding?”

    Forget the foreigners. It’s not fair to Finns. Just because you and some other “brainwashed” ones don’t mind that police go over their bounds like authoritarians, it doesn’t mean that ALL Finns want it. I’m Finn, and I want my income information to be private. It’s NOT for the police to see.

    I support Sirkuspelle, Phil, Kristian and anyone else who fights against this shit system. Antti rn, get your head out of your ass!

  • Antti rn

    My head is where it is supposed to be, thank you. I can understand the privacy argument. It’s the unfairness argument I’m after.

  • cunter

    “Forget the foreigners. It’s not fair to Finns. Just because you and some other “brainwashed” ones don’t mind that police go over their bounds like authoritarians, it doesn’t mean that ALL Finns want it. I’m Finn, and I want my income information to be private. It’s NOT for the police to see.”

    Ok, let’s change the system then. Police doesn’t hand you the ticket, instead you have to pick it up from your local courthouse. Now your valuable tax records are kept safe from snooping police. Is this fine with you? If not, why?

  • unlce sam

    #46 ok, consider this…

    The law should be applied blindly and equally. If you break the law you get punished. If the CEO of Fortum steals a candy from R-Kioski he gets arrested just the same as Pekka if he were to do the same. Same punishment for breaking the law.

    Now Pekka is unemployed and jumps in his car and gets busted for driving 30km over the speed limit. The police stops him and hands him a ticket.

    If the law is to be applied blindly and equally, then the CEO of Fortum should receive the same penalty for doing the same unlawful act lest we discriminate, in this case on the basis of earned income.

    This is the way it is done in most countries.

    What some of you are arguing is that the law should be applied proportionally, in this case based on the income of the offender…

    No wonder why Finns have such a well deserved reputation for boing envious people

  • Punter

    47- No it still wouldn’t be right. Not only is it a problem that one’s financial data is “public” but the whole idea of basing fines on ones wealth is fundamentally wrong. As stated above #48, no wonder you Finns are known as “envious and V’mainen” people, mostly so when dealing with people financially better off than yourselves.
    In any case, how is the court going to process the fine without having access to one’s financial records? It’s no difference to the situation now.
    Just keep your vehicles registered under your Finnish partners name, drive on your foreign licence and play dumb when stopped. Oh and remember to complement the Police officer on his/her fine “Finglish.” Easy. Let the Finns that support the system pay for it.

  • http://www.verosirkus.com Sirkuspelle

    @43 The day fine system, in its original form, was intended to serve as a substitute for jail time. Giving it out liberally for all kinds of minor infractions should not be done. If it is done, then we have what is seen in Finland – the police making people tell them their income or looking it up with their cellphone if it is a Finnish resident. This involves intimidation (Sakkovilppi law) and intrusion into private matters by the police. This is not justice. This is a joke.

    In the other EU countries that use day fines, they are used to substitute for jail time. In a couple of cases where a high income person has gotten a 5-6 figure speeding ticket, he has requested to serve jail time and has been denied. So it appears to also be the government dipping their hands into peoples’ pockets when given the chance. What if the government were to start making up charges in order to get peoples’ money? This is why justice needs to be blind and fair. Unfortunately, the people who made these laws, were also those people who don’t see anything else except “take their money”, when the world is full of ideas on how to enforce traffic law. Now we have two generations of people who have been staring at lists of each others’ incomes – the tax calendar generation and now the Veropörssi generation. Nothing good has come of it.

    The government gets an average of 219 EUR from speeding tickets where day fines are used. So he average does not really swing much in the direction of high income people.

    Finns, how would you feel if the Spanish police down in the Canary Islands were to give you some special treatment when your are visiting there for when you break the law. How would you like that? The police could make you tell your income, and even have Veropörssi downloaded from the Internet to check. Or we could also get the Thai police to give special treatment as well. They can look up your income and give you day fines. They might even make up some charges just to get your money just to show the tendency of what government officials can be led to do when handling this kind of information.

  • unlce sam

    Punter said

    …Finns are known as “envious and V’mainen” people, mostly so when dealing with people financially better off than yourselves.

    http://www.hs.fi/english/article/Fortum+CEO+Lilius+to+buy+EUR+3+million+yacht+in+syndicate/1135231098203

    Only in Finland does this makes the news.

    I would love to afford a boat like that but I could care less what the CEO of Fortum does with his money. If he has money to buys toys like that, more power to him

  • JG

    The day fine system is not designed as a substitute for prison time. You have that wrong, but it is supposed to make the same kind of financial impact as a punishment as prison time but without actually depriving the person being punished of their liberty (which is the most severe part of a prison term as punishment).

    Nr 41, to suggest that Finns are envious and that is why they use day fines is a strange argument. I also think you misunderstand where the equality is supposed to lie. The equality that the day fine system produces is that a person is deterred equally and receives an equally “painful” punishment. It would be pointless to fine the CEO example mentioned an arbitrary 80€ or such like, it’s not going to hurt him. So, yes, the day fine system is absolutely a proportional system which is why it is more equal as both a deterrent and a punishment.

    The idea that we should abolish the whole system because a few foreigners are unable to be included satisfactorily is stupid. If everyone had to follow such regulations, there would be an endless list of things that would have to be abandoned; Stockholm would have to get rid of its congestion fee, the UK would have to get rid of vehicle yearly tax and so on so forth (and this would not just effect motoring).
    As I have said before, there are countless examples were it sadly is simply impossibly for reasons of practicality or shear realism to treat everyone exactly 100% equally. Regrettable, but realistic.

  • Anonymous

    “Nr 41, to suggest that Finns are envious and that is why they use day fines is a strange argument.”

    Fins are the most evious commies on the earth. Only difference between commie Finns and other commies (N. Korea, Cuba…) is that Fins see nice consumerism all around them in Europe. But only the big income Fins can fully enjoy it; the normal Fins can’t. So they say, “It’s not fair, so let’s punish the rich guy”.

    “I also think you misunderstand where the equality is supposed to lie.”

    I think you misunderstood where the equality IS a lie.

  • http://www.verosirkus.com Sirkuspelle

    The Mexican policeman walks up to the foreign driver and says, “Señor, you were driving jost a leetle too fast.
    Give me your driving card and your registration.
    Señor, how moch money do you earn in one year.”

    foreign man: “None of your business, officer.”

    Mexican policeman, “Señor, eef you do not tell me what is your income, you will go to prison for a month.”

    foreigner, starting to get nervous: “Why do you want to know my income. What does that have to do with me speeding?”

    Mexican policeman: “We have to ponish you in a way that will hurt you.”

    foreigner, with a growing darkening wet spot in the seat of his pants: “I don’t really know how much money I make”

    Mexican policeman: “Surely you most hav some idea.”

    foreigner: “uh, about, uh, 20 K dollars”

    Mexican policeman, gets out calculator, presses buttons. “I don’t believe you. You need to pay me 773 dollars right now, in cash”

    foreigner: “I don’t carry around that much cash.”

    Mexican policeman “then I will go weeth you to an ATM and you can tek some money.”

    and so the foreigner just had to pay the policeman, no way out.

    A few days later, the foreigner was in the hotel lobby and glanced upon a local newspaper. To his great surprise, he sees his name in an article, together with his income and fine amount. They had even managed to find a picture of him from somewhere. It looks like the one he used in Classmates.com.

    That was a little fictional story, but not too far from what happens in Finland.

  • Antti rn

    “Only in Finland does this makes the news…”

    Well, the missing part of the story is that this guy presides over what is practically almost a state-owned monopoly company, where the required business competence consists of ability to increase the people’s electric bills for the next year.

    A propos, on blindness of justice. There is the grand principle and it’s various applications. Wouldn’t total blindness lead to a contradiction with justice? Say, old granny with a very small pension has financially bad month and shoplifts a bread vs. bored CEO of Fortum steals a similar bread for excitement. Offense is the same, but shouldn’t the judge go a bit easier on granny, if we talk about justice?

    About fairness of the day fine system. It’s been around since 1920′s, way before the tax calendar generation. I think it’s just a matter of point of observation. If granny and CEO would have to pay the same sum, CEO would earn that money maybe in 2 hours, while granny would have to “work for the state” for maybe 2 weeks. With the day fines, both give equal “taksvärkki” (= a days work) to the state. It’s equal, but in different measures.

    If you break the law, the penalty may include some loss of privacy. I guess ending up in jail is an ultimate loss of privacy. This is different from “I’m a law-abiding citizen, I have no problem letting the police to listen to my telephone and read my e-mails because of terrorism.” -logic, as no offense has taken place in the latter.

    It’s up to debate, whether speeding on public highway is grave enough offense for this much loss of privacy. What if pelle’s example doesn’t happen with a speeding foreign motorist, but a shoplifting moviestar?

  • Antti rn

    “Day fines should only be used to punish serious offenses that warrant actual jail time as a monetary substitute for the jail time.”

    So are you suggesting a flat fine for small offenses + new “buy yourself out of prison” option for grave ones?

  • unlce sam

    “Well, the missing part of the story is that this guy presides over what is practically almost a state-owned monopoly company, where the required business competence consists of ability to increase the people’s electric bills for the next year.”

    Humm… so monopolies (whether state owned or not) are not so cool anymore

    Funny, I seem to recall a discussion not too long ago about Abloy and what a great monopoly it was.

  • Antti rn

    Well, Abloy can’t ask people to pay more to have their doors closed at -30C.

  • aet75

    I for one don’t see blatant speeding (törkeä ylinopeus) as a small offence or minor infraction or whatever. On the road, lives are at stake, and by speeding you show disregard for the safety of others. It is NOT in any way comparable to shoplifting for example. Speeders are assholes, jail them for all I care.

  • Freeridin’ Franklin

    The anti-day fine argument in a nutshell:

    “I wanna drive fast! Boo-hoo! Mommy, it’s not fair! Sob sob! VROOM! *splat*”

  • unlce sam

    I think we have beaten this topic to death… where is Phil ? We a new controversial topic to argue about :)

  • http://www.verosirkus.com Sirkuspelle

    Finlandforthought is a bit broken at the monent. It doesn’t let anyone log in to write a new article.

    Regarding speeding, sometimes it can be a grave offense, such as when friend of mine was killed by a man speeding through a traffic light in order to avoid the red light. She happened to be turning left at the time. But what we have in Finland is often people caught on camera, or people driving fast on an open highway. Such as in the case of Jussi Salonoja. In Anssi Vanjoki’s case, even the cop thought that he didn’t deserve that kind of fine for what he did. These names can all be found by googling “Finnish speeding tickets”. You never see anything about how people are punished for driving drunk, do you? Only speeding. Whst we have is international “laughinstock” type justice for people who have interesting incomes or for people who are well known and just for speeding.

    The owner of that large company that gets his name and income splattered all over the international media might decide he wants to move his company to Estonia or somewhere else, where he wont loose his human rights over a petty offense. Petty offenses happen are something that most of use end up doing at some time or another. I got a day fine speeding ticket in about 1999. At the time, I was unemployed, so it was minimal: 110 EUR. My wife got day fined last year for being late getting her car inspected – one day fine per day late. (14 days if I remember correctly) Is that a grave offense?

    The “buy your way out of jail” bit is exactly how it has been in Denmark, Sweden and Finland, and probably in the other Nordic countries as well for nearly 100 years. The day fine system is used as a substitute for jail time. The only country in the world where dayfines are liberally handed out for all kinds of petty crimes is Finland.

    Don’t worry, we still have controversial topics. I am just waiting for the blog to be fixed.

  • Anonymous

    Antti: “So are you suggesting a flat fine for small offenses + new “buy yourself out of prison” option for grave ones?”

    Conceptually, that would almost be fair. But, information should be kept private in all cases. But what if a defendant wants to contest the fine amount in another court process?

    Day fines only pursuade wealthy people and business owners to keep their money and tax residence outside of Finland. It’s too bad, because these people are the ones who are supposed to be investing and creating jobs for the rest of us.

    In case nobody noticed, Finland doesn’t exactly have the highest salaries (considering purchasing power) in the world. Ideology based fines don’t help the situation.

    I propose the point system (with small or no fines). After a few speeding tickets, a driver loses his license for a while. That way he can learn about public transit. It affects everyone equally.

    Insofar as substitutions for jail time, I like the US system whereby people are given the option to perform ‘community service.’ It helps everyone involved, and they have to do it in their spare time. Sounds easy, but imagine you have to do 200-hours of cleaning bus stops during weekends. That would not be fun!

    If Finland wants a higher standard of living like in other western countries, then it needs to stop using every oportunity to pull money out of people’s pockets.

  • JG

    Conceptually, that would almost be fair.
    Surely that is basically a legalisation of contract killing and a society where if you can afford it, you don’t need to obey the law.

  • Anonymous

    “basically a legalisation of contract killing”

    ????

  • JG

    You are suggesting that it would be “almost fair” for people to be able to buy themselves out of doing a prison term, which would effectively mean if you were rich enough you could “afford” to kill someone and simply pay the fine instead of going to prison when convicted.

  • Anonymous

    Killing??? Since when are day fines used as a substition for prison time, when murder is concerned? JG, are you a troll?

  • Antti rn

    Hmmm, my impression has been that prison term actually is a substitution for day fines, i.e. fines are primarily settled by paying, but if you don’t have the money, you can also go to the jail.

    We actually already have a flat fine -> day fine -> prison -system in place as “rikesakko” is the same for everybody. Unfortunately that allows only 15…20km/h excess speeding and thus may turn out to be a major handicap for Finland in competition for the world-class talent…

    Point systems seem to be all the rage nowadays and probably they will be adopted in Finland also some day. But what do you do with ‘epeli’, who decides he doesn’t need a license to drive? Is it a day fine again?

    “I think we have beaten this topic to death”

    We should start hitting our plates on table in rhythm.

  • JG

    Nr 67, no Anonymous, I am not a troll. I am Finnish not Norwegian ;)

    Of course day-fines are not given for crimes such as murder, but you advocated that you thought that it would be “almost fair” to be able to pay fines instead of going to prison for grave crimes. Look at comment number 56 to understand the context of your remark on that matter. Perhaps you or I misunderstood one another.

    In any case, that aside, I am trying to make the wider point that it would be very unfair to allow people who could afford to pay a fine get out of a prison sentence. It would create a situation where the law would effectively have less meaning for the wealthier.

  • http://www.verosirkus.com sirkuspelle

    Still waiting on the blog to be fixed. It doesn’t let any of the guest bloggers log in to post. Phil is on holiday until next week. I talked to him yesterday and he is trying to fix it.

    Sorry for the inconvenience,

    Sirkuspelle

  • unlce sam

    well there is no other topic to fight about so lets continue with this one I guess…

    @69
    “… It would create a situation where the law would effectively have less meaning for the wealthier.”

    The law is supposed to be applied equally to both the wealthy and the poor. What about the case of the wealthy man who gives away half his fortune to help the poor and has five kids and the poor derelics criminal who has no one in this world both commit the same crime.

    Should the the wealthy man deserve less prison time than the poor man just becasue he has five kids and had lived a much more honorable life ?

    I believe this day fine goes with the Finnish obsession with envy… if the guy makes more money, he deserves a higher punishment…what a sad society we live on

  • JG

    I believe this day fine goes with the Finnish obsession with envy… if the guy makes more money, he deserves a higher punishment…what a sad society we live on

    That would be the case if what you say actually occurred, but the day-fine system insures that everyone gets an equal punishment. It hurts them proportionately to their income, i.e. they are punished by being deprived of the same number of days of income.

    If a “rich” person was fined 50 day-fines and a “poor” person 20 day-fines, then I could understand your argument of a society based on envy; but that is not the case.

  • unlce sam

    @72

    “It hurts them proportionately to their income…”

    no, that is the whole point… The law is blind. One EQUAL punishment for every crime.

    You do something wrong you pay for it

  • JG

    You do something wrong you pay for it

    But if everyone pays a flat rate, someone who is very rich essentially (in any meaningful way) will not pay for it as you term it. If you are earning a large 6-figure salary, an arbitrary 100 € or so fine won’t be the same level of “paying for it” as for someone of a lower income. A low income person therefore effectively would get a worse punishment than a higher income person.

  • Nomad

    @74 Sorry, but I have a hard time understanding this social-justice system of making the rich pay proportionally. Is it the rich person’s fault that the poor person gets hit harder by a 100 € fine?

    Shouldn’t it be the responsibility of the poor person to ensure that he/she doesn’t f*#k up?

  • Astonished by Finland’s stupidity

    I agree with a few of the previous posters, and also hope Finland gets busted by the EU. In my opinion, the system is illegal and needs to be shut down. There’s no place for class envy and ideology in today’s Europe, and the way Finland violates people’s privacy is indeed a disgrace (as someone already mentioned).

    It not only affects Finns (who seem to be either naive or brainwashed, and don’t really care), but also people who move to Finland for temporary work assignments. For they are the ones who Finland really screws.

    I hope you guys keep blogging about this topic, and let the world know what Finland does. You could probably save lots of people the aggravation of moving to Finland and suddenly realizing that their privacy has been violated. Obviously, it’s not the low skilled, 3rd World workers who would care most about this. Finland will always attract plenty of them, in any case.

  • Freeridin’ Franklin

    “Shouldn’t it be the responsibility of the poor person to ensure that he/she doesn’t f*#k up?”

    Apparently such responsibility is too much to ask from rich people.

  • uncle sam

    Everyone is equally responsible for following the law and equally punished for breaking it… Except in Finland :(

    The argument has never been that we were asking less responsibility for rich people.

    But I find it amazing that some people would think that having more money somehow justifies a greater punishment in order to level the playing field with the poor…

    Wasn’t that what Communists wanted to do ?

  • Freeridin’ Franklin

    “But I find it amazing that some people would think that having more money somehow justifies a greater punishment in order to level the playing field with the poor…”

    I don’t know if anyone thinks so. What I do think is that there should be a deterrent against reckless endargerment of lives on public roads. What you’re bawling about is that there is such a deterrent for wealthy people as well.

    Sirkuspelle has said that to avoid the day fines, he has to – the horror – drive according to the speed limit. His problem with the system seems to be that it works.

  • Nomad

    @77, Freeridin: You know exactly the point I was trying to make – If the law is applied equally, then so should the punishment. Fines proportional to income is discriminatory to the rich.

    WHY does the income of a person even come into account?

    There seems to be an undercurrent in the psyche of Finland that rich people owe proportionally more to the society (besides taxes, that is) because they have gained some unfair advantage. And in most cases, the truth is just that they are just better at making money than 98% of the population is.

  • JG

    It is the same punishment for rich or poor, they receive the same number of day fines without regard to their income. I think some people here do not understand the concept (or perhaps don’t want to for some reason).

    Day fines do not punish a wealthy person more, they punish them the same as a poorer person. That is the whole idea. In any case, perhaps more importantly, the deterrent effect is equalised across all of society’s income groups. As I have said before, the risk of some kind of arbitrary 100€ fine is not really any real deterrent for a very wealthy person. However, x number of day fines is the same amount of pain for everyone. Therefore, the arbitrary fine system discriminates against the poorer. The day fine system treats everyone equally.

    Having an arbitrary system of fines would lessen equality but perhaps more importantly, the deterrent to break the law in the first place.

    Anyhow, as there has been a motoring theme of sorts on this thread, let’s just say Congratulations Kimi!!!

  • Anonymous

    Doesn’t Kimi Räikkonen live in Switzerland? To avoid descrimination by Finnish authorities, perhaps?

    Go Kimi!

  • David

    Mmm, my long response is not showing up. I hope this is not censorship. (Let’s hope the whole thread won’t be deleted.)

  • David

    Well, a shorter version of the long response: (I’m sure it’s in the review queue. You have my permission to delete them.)

    Wouldn’t it be easier if people don’t speed at the first place? You can have a million reasons to speed, but are they justifiable in term of the common/public good?

    The rationale behind a speed fine is to punish through finance, in hope that the offender will be aware because he loses something. Can a flat rate (say, 110 euro fine) deter people from re-offending? If we don’t use a speed fine, the cancellation of license or some jail time are viable alternatives and worth considering. (Although, it’s worth repeating – driving safety education is still the key.)

    It may not be clear to some that car accidents caused by speeding are frequently fatal. Yet this type of death is mostly preventable. That’s why we want to discourage people from doing it. No matter how ‘unfair’ it seems, if you don’t speed, you don’t get speed fine. (Assuming no corruption, of course.)

    Finally. Rich people don’t necessarily pay exceptional amount of tax. They hire professional accountants to protect their money, and they live wherever that’s convenient to them. So this “high-tax drives out rich people” doesn’t apply in a reasonable tax system. People like Stefan Persson (son of H&M’s founder), despite the family fortune, also chooses to live in Sweden for the betterment of Sweden.

  • Anonymous

    “So this “high-tax drives out rich people” doesn’t apply in a reasonable tax system. People like Stefan Persson (son of H&M’s founder)”

    Most of his 18 billion fortune is safely ‘hidden’ behind his corporation. If he pays himself a half-million or so, for income to live on, then it’s only a miniscule percentage of his total worth. Paying taxes on that amount is irrelevant, even it it’s over 50% tax rate. Day fines won’t hurt him either.

    Discriminatory tax and fine systems, like in Finland, mainly hurt ordinary people who don’t have huge empires and ability to ‘structure’ their wealth beyond reach of authorities.

  • http://www.verosirkus.com Sirkuspelle

    Giving out day fines on being late for car inspection does indeed really only hurt poor people. Poor people are the ones who drive junky old cars that don’t pass inspection. People who have money drive new cars which easily pass inspection. The wealthiest people can have someone else take the car to be inspected. Wealthy people aren’t late getting their car inspected or fixed so it will pass inspection.

  • Freeridin’ Franklin

    Here’s someone who apparently just got some day fines:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNgRpCpqVUU

    “It’s not fair!” was the argument, right?

  • unlce sam

    well at least she didn’t get a fine proportional to her bank account like she would have in Finland, so that proves my point.

    What is yours ?

  • David

    @85 – So you basically agree that rich people can find their way through the tax system, and they can (more or less) live where they choose to.

    As for “discriminatory tax”, I assume you mean progressive tax scheme? It’s used by big developed countries like Germany, UK, US, France, Switzerland, Australia…etc. If it has no advantage (to the government and the people,) then this wide adoption wouldn’t have occurred. One argument to support such a scheme is: wealth comes from somewhere – the rich ones obtain wealth from the mass, whom rely on the national infrastructure (education & health system, energy, and national defenses…etc.) Ultimately, those tax will (or should) benefit the mass. And richer the mass, even richer the wealthy.

    Besides, it’s not as if their accountants cannot find ways to reduce it. In fact, they do, and the middle-class ends up “absorbing” the deficit caused by the tax avoidance of the wealthy.

    Even if that argument above doesn’t sell, consider a flat rate tax, say 22.5% (which is in the middle of US’s tax rates, 10% ~ 35%.) Suddenly the lower end who used to pay 10%, now pays extra 12.5%, yet the higher end 35% suddenly pays 12.5% LESS. Is that justifiable?

    For the debate on fine, it will not be resolved because (1) we are arguing from a set of opinions and personal emotions (2) different types of issues are mixed together (privacy, fine, over-generalisation about Finns’ characteristics.)

    A more constructive debate about the speeding fine is to get the statistics and see
    (1) if traffic/speed fine reduces traffic incidences (or the severity)
    (2) if a fine based on income helps to reduce traffic incidences (or the severity)
    (3) if an alternative to fine can be found (or can complement the fine system)

    Show some statistics to (dis)prove these points?

  • Switzerland is smart, very smart

    In Switzerland, low income people pay almost no taxes — 5% maybe. They even get money from government to pay for healthcare, etc. High income people pay about 25% overall. Maybe even less.

    Big difference compared to Finland, eh?

  • http://www.verosirkus.com Sirkuspelle

    @90: Switzerland has similar challenges to the Scandinavian countries as well – it is cold and snowy, there are not many people, there are similar challenges in agriculture, lack of resources, etc. Despite this, Switzerland is considered to be one of the richest countries on the planet. Other small, remote, disadvantaged countries have tried to model Switzerland’s privacy and banking policies with varying degrees of success. (Jersey, Cayman Islands, Belize, etc.) Some of them have recenlty “sold out” to the US government with their tax treaties. Google “OECD harmful tax practices”

    One of the basic differences between Switzerland and Finland is the privacy in money matters. Switzerland has aimed to have a very high level of privacy in banking and financial matters, whereas Finland has always aimed to have everything public, and not just public but “totally in your face”. Until recently, Finland’s government would even expose how much wealth or money you have, not just what you earn. Switzerland has also aimed to have low taxes.

    @89 the liberal use of day fines in punishing traffic violations has already been shown in 2004 to not reduce anything. It perhaps reduces the amount traffic violations of the very wealthy, but in general it has not reduced anything at all. The average day fine amount given for a traffic violation is 219 EUR, so the vast majority of violations come from low and moderate income people, probably even disproportionately, since high income people often carry a high amount of responsibility, and therefore are not generally very reckless or careless people. For example, I am rather certain that a typical Finnish CEO does not drive like a teenage boy with tires screeching and beer cans and urine flying out the window.

    For high income people it is a lot of trouble- the court cases adjusting the level of fine, the international media publicity, etc. It is a lot more trouble than just a speeding ticket. A lower income person has no real motivation or reason to contest a fine. The system really appears to be aimed at humiliating and interfering with the lives of wealthy people, if they happen to have a muck-up in traffic.

    If the government of Finland screws around too much with its wealthy people, they will loose them in the near future. One can live anywhere in the EU.

  • Freeridin’ Franklin

    Bozo:
    “high income people often carry a high amount of responsibility, and therefore are not generally very reckless or careless people.”

    Then they do not get day fines in traffic, and the “problem” you’re bawling about does not exist.

    “The system really appears to be aimed at humiliating and interfering with the lives of wealthy people, if they happen to have a muck-up in traffic.”

    Cut the crap. The speeding has to be significant in order to be within day fines. No-one does it by accident. If one does, one is too f’ing stupid to be the manager of anything.

    “If the government of Finland screws around too much with its wealthy people, they will loose them in the near future.”

    I’m happy to lose all the Paris Hiltons, really. They can run over children in countries that are more in need of it. Even if it means a slight tax increase for me.

  • a Finn

    Sirkuspelle,

    you have a nice website. The issue is infuriating, even for un-wealthy people like me. Thanks for the good information.

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  • Anonymous

    Few days ago travelling on the Keha 1 behind a police van, there was a speed limit of 70 KM/ hr, my vehicle was just under the speed limit but the police vehicle, no lights flashing, was pulling away quite dramatically, obviously exceeding the speed limit in force, the justice system in this country is a f*****g joke.  

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