Getting a speeding ticket is not a feel-good moment for anyone. But consider Reima Kuisla, a businessman in Finland. He was recently fined 58,000 dollars for traveling a modest, if illegal, 64 mph in a 50 mph zone.
Kuisla is a millionaire, and in Finland the fines for more-serious speeding infractions are calculated according to income. The thinking here is that if it stings for the little guy, it should sting for the big guy, too. The ticket had its desired effect. Kuisla, 61, said he was seriously considering leaving Finland altogether.
“The way things are done here makes no sense,” Kuisla sputtered. “For what and for whom does this society exist? It is hard to say.”
The Nordic countries have long had a strong egalitarian streak, embracing progressive taxation and high levels of social spending. They also practice progressive punishment when it comes to certain fines. A rich person, many citizens here believe, should pay more for the same offense if justice is to be served. The question is: How much more?
Kuisla’s ticket drew considerable attention as media debated the merits of Finland’s system, which uses a complex formula to calculate a person’s fines. But the idea that the rich should pay heavier fines did not seem to be in question.
Kuisla’s speeding infraction is classified as a crime in Finland, which could seem severe when other parts of the system are relatively lenient. People convicted of murder could be released in 41/2 years, said Kimmo Kiiski, a senior transportation adviser with the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
He said a commission probably would decide to move speeding tickets out of the criminal-justice system altogether and stop levying such large fines for them.