Taking the Rap
The Marginal Revolution describes the latest online market in France. Drivers with few demerit points are accepting money from drivers near losing their licenses to plead guilty to traffic offenses.
It is the latest ruse on the roads of France: drivers are avoiding disqualification by trading licence points on the internet. Complete strangers are taking the rap for speeding offences in return for up to €1,500 (£1,000), and police admit they are powerless to intervene. Even pensioners who have not driven for many years are getting in on the act.
French officials were unable to estimate the scale of points fiddling. Across the border in Spain, the Autopista.es online motoring site, estimates the black market in points there is worth €30 million a month.
“I don’t have a bad conscience,” he [the seller] told le Parisien. “I only offer my services to people with small excesses of speed. And I always ask to see a copy of the ticket. I would never sell my points to a road hog.
Is there something wrong with this? And if so, why?
There are many schemes regulators play, but most of them revolve around putting objects in one-to-one correspondence with a set of rules. Sometimes the object is a class. Young men are sometimes charged higher insurance premiums than other age groups, because as a class they may be more accident prone. Older men are often charged more for health insurance because as a class they are more likely to get sick. An individual teenager may have an safety profile unlike that of Wild Youth, and an old geezer may have a lot of healthy years left in him, but the system is not designed to measure him reliably at that level of granularity. Driving records are arguably different because they reflect individual driving ability. Or do they? A retired man who only drives down to the post office and grocery store twice a week in the country will probably have fewer traffic violations than a person who drives long distances on stressful, dangerous roads. He is not necessarily a better driver, so why not allow these records trades.
On the other hand, some might argue that driving records, while imperfect, capture much of the correlation between driving safety and the driver. After all, a man with a glove compartment full of speeding tickets might actually be a speeder. By allowing the trade, society is allowing a person who should be removed from the road to stay on it.
But wait. In buying someone's willingness to take a traffic rap, the market is in effect imposing a monetary fine on a buyer in exchange for extinguishing the ticket. Don't governments do that already? And unlike fines set by bureacrats, the market may in fact charge more equitable penalties. So why not allow the trade. But on the other hand ...