Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Externalities and Locking Your Car

Inertia Wins! posted this about a new regulation on locking your car.
Most car thefts happen to unlocked cars. The government of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, thinks it can help. It plans to issue $25 fines to people who forget to lock their cars. First-time violators get off with a warning.
I'm not a fan of this law, largely because of the reasons Inertia Wins! outlines (invasion of privacy when police check for locked cars, ability to be abused by thieves dressed as cops, etc). I'm also against it because I lock my car all the time.

Suppose everyone locked their car. Some car thieves would steal other things but their skill set is not easily transferable. I'd imagine most would focus on getting better at getting into locked cars. That's a cost to me as it increases the likelihood that my car will be stolen. So the strange unintended consequence of this regulation is that it punishes the people who are most careful.

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