Sunday, February 26, 2006

Justice and Economics

Justice and Economics are not so different. For clarification by 'economics' I mean 'economic policy' and by 'justice' I mean the 'justice system'. Even so they probably still seem miles apart but I stand by my convictions. The unifying factor of justice and economics is that they both influence the behavior of populations over time. I put some time into that line so I'll write it again:

They influence the behavior of populations over time.

By 'influence' I am looking to contrast it with 'dictate'. Even the most insightful legislation will never understand all of what goes into even a single interaction, and so cannot foresee all the reasons a particular action would happen, and so cannot remove all reason for it. I think this especially needs acknowledgement in the area of criminal justice where so many see the solution as more force rather than more finesse.

I say 'behavior' rather than 'values'. In considering a price floor keeping prices artificially high. Though individuals may trade different things for it, relative to the population it is still going to be consumed the same way, and it is in the way a good is consumed or used that it is given a value. Though justice and economics may influence values, they must do so indirectly through an intermediary and the effects will likely be unpredictable.

'Populations' was chosen over 'individuals'. These tools are far too broad to have a predictable impact on any one person, but they can be used to channel groups of people. Also, there are far more effective ways to get to a single person.

'Over time.' I think this may be the most important part. The effects of economics and justice will be different on individuals than it will be on the population as a whole and it takes time to bare this out. Good policy will account for all of this.

To further the interplay between justice and economics, any end that can be pursued by one can be pursued by the other. You may notice the ultimate hand at play in the structure of economic activity, contracts, taxes and such, is the law. And while fines are a part of law, any legal disincentive could theoretically be substituted with a fine or tax of some sort. Legal and financial incentives are likewise translatable. While this does not make them good ideas, it could be done.

Speaking of bad ideas consider for a moment a violence tax. So any money that exchanged hands with the intent of causing violence, like a contract killing or payment for the severe beating of a high school janitor, or as a result of violence, a robbery or a mugging, would be taxed at a higher rate, or maybe on top of other applicable taxes. There are a few interesting side effects of such a policy.

I think there are two sides to take in first. One where people report such things and willfully pay the tax. In this case there is free money and free information about an 'industry' we didn't have before and can therefor influence even further. The other side obviously is the scenario where they don't willfully report and pay. In this case investigations into such activities may, eventually, pay for themselves in recouped taxes. (Not to mention not having to pay to keep them in jail.)

By the very nature of violence it has to be against someone, the victim. It is very hard to run a busness if you constantly keep making yourself enemies. If you do so you have to protect yourself from them, but this is very hard if your 'industry' happens to pay a premium tax rate.

I wonder to what extent the tax man could replace the armed guard.


1 comment:

  1. OMG!!! Hey Ashley, I just kinda found this from a comment left on Janelle's page, lol.... Haven't seen you in like forever, although that would be because I don't even live on the Island anymore, so I tend to not see people there, lol... Well, I hope that all is a well with you, and that everything is going fabulous for you!!!! My goddess, you know, I think that last time that I seen you was when you worked at the gas station and Susan, Jeff and I went in to visit ya, lol... That must have been around 2002 or so-- maybe, oh I don't know!!! Anyhoo, my msn is, so feel free to add me if ya want to!!! I must be off now, teeheehe