Globalization: Social & Geographic Perspectives

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Too Big To Jail?: America’s Theft Inflection Point

March 29th, 2011 · No Comments
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Jon Walker (firedoglake.com, 3/17/2011) writes that “in America, there is a very important theft-to-punishment inflection point for the super rich and powerful.” This stylized graph represents a hypothesized relationship between crime and punishment in America:

Walker continues:

When you steal things of minor value, the value of what you stole is correlated with the level of punishment you receive. Shoplifting a candy bar is going to result in less punishment than stealing a car.

At some point, you steal enough to basically reach the punishment limit, which is the flat part in the graph. You will likely get the same amount of jail time if you steal $3 million or $6 million.

Eventually, though, if you systematically break the law to steal such an absurdly large amount of money for a long enough time that you become so politically powerful and integral to the entire economy, you hit the magical theft inflection point. It is the amount at which you become too big to jail and, as you can see from the graph, accountability just drops off a cliff.

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When you steal things of minor value, the value of what you stole is correlated with the level of punishment you receive. Shoplifting a candy bar is going to result in less punishment than stealing a car.

At some point, you steal enough to basically reach the punishment limit, which is the flat part in the graph. You will likely get the same amount of jail time if you steal $3 million or $6 million.

Eventually, though, if you systematically break the law to steal such an absurdly large amount of money for a long enough time that you become so politically powerful and integral to the entire economy, you hit the magical theft inflection point. It is the amount at which you become too big to jail and, as you can see from the graph, accountability just drops off a cliff.

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