Where there are posted restrictions, most European countries take speeding very seriously and levy hefty fines. The latest case in point is a 37 year-old Swedish man who was clocked at 180 miles per hour on a motorway between Bern and Lausanne in Switzerland.
Unfortunately for this driver of a new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, Switzerland doesn’t have fixed fines for speeding. Instead they use a formula similar to that in Finland where the fine is calculated based on the vehicle’s speed and the driver’s income. Back in 2002, Nokia executive Anssi Vanjoki had to pay a fine of $103,600 for going 47 mph in a 31 mph zone.
A student in my Law, Economics, and Organization seminar mentioned the article quoted above last week when I was explaining the difference between the twin concepts of absolute and relative risk aversion.
In economics, risk is not so much about what most people call risk as it is about gambles over income. In other words, risk preferences are defined over income or wealth. See here for an excellent discussion starting on page 64 in chapter 6 of David Friedman’s Law’s Order. So why would Switzerland and Finland have speeding fines that vary with income? Continue reading →