Car thieves are not locavores, or the law of one price

The men who carjacked Dunkley on March 17 were professional thieves, members of a sophisticated transatlantic car theft ring, police said. Their plan — thwarted by Prince George’s County detectives who arrested them this month — was to ship her 2009 silver Toyota thousands of miles to Lagos, Nigeria, authorities said.

The story is here.  What is the incentive to steal?

In the Prince George’s ring, the thieves are paid according to the vehicles they carjack or steal — $1,500 for a Toyota Camry, $2,500 for a RAV4, $5,000 for a Porsche Cayenne…

Did you guess that tariffs on legitimately imported cars to Nigeria are quite high, much higher than those fees?


This is interesting to me, in a "morbid fascination" sort of way, but I am mystified by the two questions.

(1) What is the incentive to steal? Hmmm ... what is it usually? Obtain an item without paying for it; sell it. Selling price = profit.

(2) Tariffs higher than thief payments? So what? Pay the tariff, thereby avoiding conflict with the Nigerian authorities. It's still the same business model as (1). Obtain an item at a VERY low cost; pay all the fees, including tariffs and shipping cost; sell it at a high price. Excess of sales price over total cost = profit.

Don't be mystified by the questions, Ken. It's part of the libertarians propaganda drumbeat of "government is causing the problem". When in actuality, it is the simple capitalist profit motive combined with ignoring externalities.

Mike Huben is the intellectual equivalent of a Cleveland Steamer.

If tariffs to Nigeria are so high, why not just buy used cars in America and transport them to Nigeria illegally? My guess is that--on the margin--the real cost of stealing a car is comparable to just buying one in the used car market. But the car ring was specializing in illegal activity, so they found buying unattractive: for instance, buying a used car would leave a paper trail which could be traced back to the buyer, whereas stealing wouldn't.

Actually, there's a whole business in doing just that.

A legal one, I mean.

I don't understand the reasoning. High tariffs lead to a high incentive to smuggle, agreed. But shouldn't high tariffs lead to a lower incentive to steal? Imagine that the Nigerian tariffs were a ridiculously high 500%; now the core of the profit lies in the smuggling process at the Nigerian end. Why should the thief risk getting caught stealing at the US end? He might as well buy a car legally and then smuggle it?

The high Nigerian import tariffs should actually keep US-carjackings lower if at all?

do you like the coach handbags, now please go to coach Canada.

So, ending car theft in the US is as simple as ending the Nigerian tariff on cars? Why don't State Farm, Amica, Allstate,et all band together to pay Nigeria the equivalent revenue times two to eliminate their tariff and thus reduce their theft losses to near zero?

"So, ending car theft in the US is as simple as ending the Nigerian tariff on cars?"

No. There's no possible reading of the article that leads to this conclusion.

Marginal Revolution - SMALL steps toward a much better world.

There are also extremely high tariffs on imported cars in Japan and Singapore. I don't see any organized Singaporean and Japanese car-jacking rings operating in the US, smuggling cars to their countries.

Sorry, your reasons are bogus. The real reasons are:

1. Nigeria has an extremely corrupt and ineffective government.
2. Nigerian immigrants to America have above-average levels of criminal behavior.
3. The American penal system provides comparatively little deterrence for people used to a Nigerian standard-of-living.

Good god, cheap chalupas,

Do you listen to yourself? I hope you are aware and secretly ashamed of how you have sold your soul.

"Did you guess that tariffs on legitimately imported cars to Nigeria are quite high, much higher than those fees?"

No, I guessed -- well, actually not guessed, know from , you know, data -- that Nigeria is famous for criminal behavior.

Comments for this post are closed