The unjust nature of fines

In essence, almost every neoliberal society employs monetary fines as a method to direct citizens’ behavior towards adhering to laws. However, this system of penalties is often criticized for its inherent unfairness; it does not punish the rich and the poor equally. For instance, a fine of 100 KM (convertible marks) might be negligible for some, while for others it represents a significant sacrifice of basic life necessities.

The primary issue lies in the fact that laws in such societies are most often crafted by members of the higher class, whose lives are significantly unchanged by the payment of monetary fines, or are even supported by wealthier individuals who oppose the introduction of a more equitable system of punishment.

The example of Finland, where traffic fines are determined based on a percentage of monthly income, demonstrates one way to address this problem. However, this solution encounters obstacles, especially in societies where a large number of people do not report all their income, or where the wealth of individuals is not necessarily reflected through their earnings.

An alternative approach involves determining fines based on the value of the vehicle, meaning that penalties increase with the vehicle’s costliness. Such a system could motivate owners of expensive vehicles to opt for cheaper ones if they wish to avoid high fines.

While traffic fines are the most common type of penalty, the issue of unfairness exists in other areas as well. Besides adjusting the amount of fines according to a person’s wealth, other ways to achieve more equitable punishment include forced labor, physical punishment, public shaming, and prison sentences. However, each of these methods has its drawbacks and challenges.

Forced labor can be difficult to implement for various reasons, while prison sentences are expensive and often ineffective, burdening taxpayers without contributing to society. On the other hand, physical punishments and public shaming, though efficient and inexpensive, have been gradually eliminated from legal systems due to concerns for human rights, although some societies still use them.

In the context of modern society, finding an adequate alternative to monetary fines requires careful consideration of the ethical, practical, and efficiency aspects of different methods of punishment.