Burglary and Banking
What if we punished burglars the way we punish banks for crimes?
Let us assume the burglar steals one hundred high definition televisions from one hundred different homes and sells them for one hundred dollars each. He now has ten thousand dollars. If caught and convicted of all these offenses, his sentence could run into hundreds of years and he would be forced to restore any stolen property and profits derived from the sale of such property.
Now, let us use banking penalties – The same burglar steals the same number of sets and makes the same profit, 10,000 dollars. We catch him and after some negotiation he is willing to accept a fine but will not admit committing a crime. The fine is usually around ten percent of his ill-gotten gain, thus he owes the government, 1,000 dollars.
Obviously, he will not commit this same offense because of the stigma that now hangs over him from being caught committing a crime, and since his reputation has been damaged, no further punishment is necessary as a deterrent. And since, he is an upstanding and valued member of the community because many can buy inexpensive televisions due to his financial innovations, and a number of people who sell his “finds” rely on him for their jobs – for this man is indeed a job creator.
Now a cynic might point out that the burglar can replace all his losses from the fine by stealing just ten more televisions. And that if he is only caught ten percent of the time and has to pay ten percent of his gains each time, his penalty would only come to one percent of his criminal profits.
That is the situation the banks are in. To reiterate, if you pay a ten percent fine on your thefts and you are only caught ten percent of the time, you are out 1% of your profits.
Now, you are reasonable human being, if you were the burglar in this example and subject to these kinds of penalties would the pressure on you reform you or inspire you to even greater crimes?