Monthly Archives: December 2013

Private Prisons Are Guaranteed Inmates by the State

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When I was studying criminal justice, the concept of the “prison-industrial complex” was brought up in comparison to the military-industrial complex warned about by Dwight Eisenhower. As the military-industrial complex describes the system of a collection of suppliers to the US military, as well as all who financially benefit from the waging of war, the prison-industrial complex are those who financially benefit from the warehousing of people who are convicted of crimes by the state.

This article from StoryLeak describes an effect of the latter. Apparently state and local governments have made contracts with privately run prisons that guarantee a steady supply of inmates, specifying financial penalties for those governments if they fail to supply enough inmates. There is a lot of money to be fleeced from taxpayers in this industry. Indeed, I think this presents an interesting challenge for minarchists, who typically believe that military defense and prison operations are legitimate functions of government: even at its most basic and accepted functions, governments find a way to be wasteful and benefit special interests at the expense of the rest of us. Read the rest of this entry

Help Spread Liberty in Africa

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A friend of mine recently exposed me to what I now find to be a wonderful group: Africa Youth Peace Call. From their website:

We are dedicated to the study and advancement of classical liberalism (libertarianism) in Africa. We try to change peoples’ ideas, opinions, and mode of thinking by research, seminars and publications. AYPC wants to become the leading libertarian organisation in freedom education of young people in Africa.

They conduct a variety of programs that you can see here. You can also donate to their cause here.

It is my contention that any help you can provide them with will benefit Africa far better than any billion spent on foreign aid ever has. Recently, I finished an older, but still relevant book called, “The Revolution in Development Economics,” that was given to me at the Northwest Regional Students for Liberty conference. I think the “revolution” can be summarized as follows:

The field of development economics didn’t really pick up until after World War II, when a bunch of countries that didn’t previously exist now did. Many economists, even Nobel Prize-winning ones such as Paul Samuelson, were confused as to how an economy grows (it is quite astounding that Samuelson believed that third world countries could not lift themselves out of poverty because they produced so little and therefore couldn’t save anything to invest in capital production. But if that’s the case, how could any country have become rich? The ancestors of the wealthiest people at one time had the same amount of capital as third world countries do and yet somehow they were able to save enough to invest in capital production). Many of these economists prescribed a large dose of government planning, including tariffs, import substitution (where favors are given to domestic industry to produce goods that foreign producers clearly have a comparative advantage), forced industrialization, capital controls, and the like. None of this accomplished what it was meant to do. It wasn’t until the collapse of the Soviet Union that it became clear to most economists that central planning was inefficient. Today, most economists accept the idea that free trade leads to economic growth and well-defined property rights tend to lead to resources finding their way to their most highly valued uses (but, of course, not everyone is a full laissez faire-ist yet. Far from it).

Of the papers that were published in the book, one sticks with me in particular: Indigenous African Institutions and Economic Development by Emily Chamlee-Wright. In it she tells the story of women street vendors in Ghana, who established among themselves elaborate methods of mutual aid, including credit associations, mutual protection from police (since vending on the street is officially illegal), and running each other’s stands when one was sick (even direct competitors would do this for each other). The especially frustrating part of the story is how the city council seemed to do everything it could do disrupt the well-being of these women, including the city police taking their cut of these women’s small profits, making it nearly impossible for them to save enough money to lease a shop to store their wares and conduct business legally. But still, these women are able to coordinate their collective actions and oppose some of the worse measures planned by the city council, and seem to thrive considering the conditions under which they are put.

I highly recommend reading Chamlee-Wright’s paper; within it you’ll see why entrepreneurs in Africa could succeed if only they could conduct their business without the undue burden that government currently forces upon them. To further this end, I think giving support to Africa Youth Peace Call is laudatory. Below is a video showing one of their programs, an entrepreneurship camp.