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the point is to create a negative expected value with low variance for illegal behavior. if the expected value is positive, it is still rational to employ illegal tactics. if the expected value is negative but the variance is high (ie good chance of getting away with it), people are going to be tempted to roll the dice anyway. once you set fines to a level where EV is negative, it should be much more effective to increase the rate of conviction than to continue jacking up the penalties.

think about speeding. a speeding ticket is a meaningful amount of money to most people (usually well over $100 in the us); in some states (eg Virginia) speeding turns into a criminal offense if you are going 20+ over. and yet, most people still speed sometimes and a sizeable chunk of drivers speed almost all the time. on the other hand, speed camera tickets give a $40-50 fine but they get you every time you go 12+ over the limit as you pass the camera. almost no one exceeds the limit by more than 10mph in photo enforced zones. the fine is much lower, but the consistent enforcement makes it much more effective.




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