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Libertarian Prisons

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thetabularasa Posted: Thu, Jan 10 2013 9:09 AM

Most of us active users on Mises.org are against collectivism; by collectivism, I mean a group of at least two people aggressing against the will of an unprovoking (contextually innocent) individual or a collection of individuals. In short, the ideology that one group of people can rule another person or group of people. Here is its supposed etymology, and Google defines collectivism as:

  1. "The practice or principle of giving a group priority over each individual in it.
  2. "The theory and practice of the ownership of land and the means of production by the people or the state."

While there is a varying degree of definition regarding what rights are, the general consensus I can ascertain from reading multiple threads is that, indeed, most active members in this forum believe we have rights. There has been much discussion and debate concerning how a truly free market would handle the others infringing people's rights, (perhaps as Dr. Block puts it, murder, rape and theft) in an anarcho-capitalist society. However, after checking the SEARCH, I found only one mention of libertarian prisons, and it was in the Low Content Thread.

So I ask: in a free, stateless society, if you or some other individual is murdered, raped or stolen from, and the victim is incapable of defending himself or herself during the time of the unwarranted aggression, what is to become of the murderer, rapist or thief? Are libertarian prisons an option, and if so, who would come to the aid of the victim, even if the victim is dead from the unwarranted aggression? What would libertarian prisons be like? How would they be managed or checked if they are indeed private companies? If, for instance, an American Horror Story-esque asylum was in practice, and the communication between prisoners and the public was impossible due to the aggressor's crime, how would competition be affected? Would there be a death penalty in a free society? Could collectivism actually be an option in a free society, whereby multiple individuals band together to bring recompense to the victim?

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John James replied on Thu, Jan 10 2013 11:36 AM

The search function has been broken for some time now.

 

Private prisons - response to Moore's film  Oct 3 2009

Justice system under anarchy: private security, judges, prisons(?), arbitration etc  Feb 24 2010

Anarcho-Capitalist Law and Order  Aug 5 2010

How would free market prisons work?  Oct 27 2011

Punishment in a libertarian society  Sep 27 2012

 

(Also be sure and check Courts/Law, Security/Defense)

Those were just the ones I found in a quick one-keyword search.  I'm sure if you use the Google longer you could probably find more.  (You didn't really think there was a topic we hadn't discussed here, did you? wink)

 

P.S.

In the future, for a quick reference guide on topics, be sure to check the meta-thread.

 

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Wheylous replied on Thu, Jan 10 2013 10:56 PM

The basics are that prisons would be completely different from the ones we know right now. Instead of us putting prisoners in them, prisoners would actually attract convicts to go there. If a whole society is ostracizing you, you have a bleak, bleak future. Prisons provide a safe place for prisoners to be able to still participate in the division of labor while under close watch.

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Throw them on an island where they can provide for themselves.


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Tex2002ans replied on Fri, Jan 11 2013 12:06 AM

Robert Murphy's speech "The Market For Security" at Mises University 2010:

https://www.mises.org/media/5259/Protection-and-the-Market-for-Security

and Mises University 2011:

https://www.mises.org/media/6556/The-Market-for-Security

Murphy's take on it is also in his book Chaos Theory:

https://mises.org/document/3088/Chaos-Theory

In short:

"Libertarian prisons.... just like hotels!"

My long term project to get every PDF into EPUB: Mises Books

EPUB requests/News: (Semi-)Official Mises.org EPUB Release Topic

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Bogart replied on Fri, Jan 11 2013 3:20 PM

First, I inferred that someone, probably the state, actually comes to the aid of victims now.  This is ridiculous.  First, most violent crimes go unsolved and the mass majority of property crimes go unsolved.  Who is the advocate for these victims.  Will govenrment come by and replace your stolen car?  Will it pay medical bills for being robbed?  What about government imprisioning people for victimless crimes, how does that help me?  The fact is that right now outside of private individuals there are very few advocates for crime victims.

And why is there less crime? I agree with Stefan Moleneux's reason that better parenting has produced better children who do not have such violent tendencies.

In lieu of prision, a free society has a much more powerful weapon to control crime than imprisonment which is ostracism.  A complely ostracised person would have to beg for food literally.  And keep in mind that in a truely free society all property is private so owners would actively police their property.  Furthermore in a free society the education system would be private and not have a monopoly.  Therefore educators would be extremely vigilant to spot bad behaviors in children thus reducing crime even further.

So for that tiny amount of really hosed up criminals then free society would easily come up with some mechanism to handle these people like to have insurance companies build prisons.

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Detention facilities exist because some organizations profit by keeping some individuals from roaming free. Insofar as there are net profits to be made by putting some people away temporarily, we expect to see some sort of prison-like operation going on.

And they net profit because the realized benefits they extract from such operations are greater than the costs they incur themselves in order to make them happen, at least during their existence.

The benefits come chiefly in terms of expected behavior control. By locking some individuals in cells, these prison operators can stop or deter whatever activities these individuals were running and, as a second degree effect, can also send a message to anyone interested in starting up similar businesses.

Thus, by effectively targeting activities that are detrimental to the continuity of the prison-running industry in general, or any business in particular that patronizes the prison-running industry, these prison-runners expect to benefit.

The net effect of this can be positive it this benefit compensates the expected costs of building and maintaining such facilities, that is, feeding vacant cells with fresh prisoners and keeping the current inmate population living conditions not much below the standard level of acceptability for the industry patrons. 

And as almost every other cost, these costs too can be reduced by increased operational scale, given sufficient demand.

When the demand changes, or the costs changes, the scale and nature of these operations change accordingly.

Perhaps the inmate populations become too large to be affordable, and the operators of prisons must find a way to reduce them. Sometimes this means releasing minor felons, but on several occasions they resort to more extreme measures.

This of course depend on what price their patrons are willing to pay, or how much do they care.

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It could be a good idea if the prisoners were required to work in order to upkeep the costs of the prisons and to pay the victims of crimes. For example a woman that was assaulted by a man would not want that man as a butler but a prison could use the man for forced labor and pay the woman restitution as will as allow the prison to finance itself.

 

Rothbard supported indebtured servitute

"Inflation has been used to pay for all wars and empires as far back as ancient Rome… Inflationism and corporatism… prompt scapegoating: blaming foreigners, illegal immigrants, ethnic minorities, and too often freedom itself" End the Fed P.134Ron Paul
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Clayton replied on Sat, Jan 19 2013 9:59 PM

Rothbard supported indebtured servitute

Um, no.

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Clayton replied on Sat, Jan 19 2013 10:00 PM

@ToxicAssets: Substitute "execution chamber" for "detention facilities". Your argument merely assumes the point in contention - that detention is ever lawful.

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Clayton replied on Sat, Jan 19 2013 10:11 PM

So I ask: in a free, stateless society, if you or some other individual is murdered, raped or stolen from, and the victim is incapable of defending himself or herself during the time of the unwarranted aggression, what is to become of the murderer, rapist or thief?

In Somali Xeer, you will end up owing a certain price to the victim's family. If you cannot pay and your "social insurance" group refuses to pay on your behalf, you're SOL... basically, you are outlawed (kicked out of the clan) and you no longer have access to law... you are a legal non-entity. At that point, it's open season on you as every roving marauder and lowlife thug knows he can do whatever he likes to you without consequence.

I'm not saying this is "the" answer, merely that it's an answer and it's thought-provoking.

Are libertarian prisons an option, and if so, who would come to the aid of the victim, even if the victim is dead from the unwarranted aggression?

It is my view that prisons are a wholly statist device. I would like to get more acquainted with the historical background but, as far as I can tell, there has never existed a prison in a customary-law society except that operated by a King (e.g. a dungeon) or whatever.

What would libertarian prisons be like?

Murphy has answered this in detail, see the links above.

How would they be managed or checked if they are indeed private companies? If, for instance, an American Horror Story-esque asylum was in practice, and the communication between prisoners and the public was impossible due to the aggressor's crime, how would competition be affected?

Cf Murphy.

Would there be a death penalty in a free society?

Rothbard's view is yes, but only for murder. My view is no, but ostracism/outlawing would be a de facto death-sentence on any ordinary criminal and could be administered for many other things besides murder.

Could collectivism actually be an option in a free society, whereby multiple individuals band together to bring recompense to the victim?

Yes, let's mind-meld and become a hive of group-thinking libertarians...

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I should have said Rothbard supported indebtured servitude in the context of crimes, which was what I was talking about. This is the only way I could think of that a prision system could finance itslef. However, this isn't a subject I have looked into very much

 

The work of the criminal could be divided both to finance the prison and pay restitution to the victim. The courts could establish rules so that the convicts are not mistreated and they are fed and everything. The convicts should be able to sue the owners and guards of prisions for mistreatment  but again this isn't a subject I have thought about very much

 

"For a New Liberty" electronic pages 118-119

 

http://mises.org/books/newliberty.pdf

 

Both the Thirteenth Amendment and the libertarian creed make the exception for the convicted criminal. The libertarian believes that a criminal loses his rights to the extent that he has aggressed upon the rights of another, and therefore that it is permissible to incarcerate the convicted criminal and subject him to involuntary servitude to that degree. In the libertarian world, however, the purpose of imprisonment and punishment will undoubtedly be different; there will be no “district attorney” who presumes to try a case on behalf of a nonexistent “society,” and then punishes the criminal on “society’s” behalf. In that world the prosecutor will always represent the individual victim, and punishment will be exacted to redound to the benefit of that victim. Thus, a crucial focus of punishment will be to force the criminal to repay, make restitution to, the victim. One such model was a practice in colonial America. Instead of incarcerating, say, a man who had robbed a farmer in the district, the criminal was coercively indentured out to the farmer—in effect, “enslaved” for a term—there to work for the farmer until his debt was repaid. Indeed, during the Middle Ages, restitution to the victim was the dominant concept of punishment; only as the State grew more powerful did the governmental authorities—the kings and the barons—encroach more and more into the compensation process, increasingly confiscating more of the criminal’s property for themselves and neglecting the hapless victim. And as the emphasis shifted from restitution to punishment for abstract crimes “committed against the State,” the punishments exacted by the State upon the wrongdoer became more severe.

"Inflation has been used to pay for all wars and empires as far back as ancient Rome… Inflationism and corporatism… prompt scapegoating: blaming foreigners, illegal immigrants, ethnic minorities, and too often freedom itself" End the Fed P.134Ron Paul
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Rothbard supported indebtured servitute

Um, no.

Clayton -

 

From your link. To me this would be a type of servitude just like the income tax, since the courts are forcing you to pay your income to someone else. In Rothbard’s view, it seems, this is permanent until the debt is paid off. On the bright side (from the debtor’s point of view) the debtor cannot be thrown into prison for this.

 

 

  Would bankruptcy laws be permissible in a libertarian legal system? Clearly not, for the bankruptcy laws compel the discharge of a debtor’s voluntarily contracted debts, and thereby invade the property rights of the creditors. The debtor who refuses to pay his debt has stolen the property of the creditor. If the debtor is able to pay but conceals his assets, then his clear act of theft is compounded by fraud. But even if the defaulting debtor is not able to pay, he has still stolen the property of the creditor by not making his agreed-upon delivery of the creditor’s property. The function of the legal system should then be to enforce payment upon the debtor through, e.g., forced attachment of the debtor’s future income for the debt plus the damages and interest on the continuing debt. Bankruptcy laws, which discharge the debt in defiance of the property rights of the creditor, virtually confer a license to steal upon the debtor. In the pre-modern era, the defaulting debtor was generally treated as a thief and forced to pay as he acquired income. Doubtless the penalty of imprisonment went far beyond proportional punishment and hence was excessive, but at least the old legal ways placed responsibility where it belonged: on the debtor to fulfill his contractual obligations and to make the transfer of the property owed to the creditor-owner.

"Inflation has been used to pay for all wars and empires as far back as ancient Rome… Inflationism and corporatism… prompt scapegoating: blaming foreigners, illegal immigrants, ethnic minorities, and too often freedom itself" End the Fed P.134Ron Paul
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Clayton replied on Sun, Jan 20 2013 1:13 PM

@gravyten577: In the quote on Colonial practices, Rothbard is not explicitly approving of the practice, merely noting it in the context of superior alternatives to the existing system. Also, absent the right to imprison (or, what is the same, confine to a factory, etc.) an accumulating debt and interest is worthless.

I agree that modern bankruptcy law hobbles creditors to the benefit of debtors, however, I think that some legal process of debt-settlement is very much a part of a natural-order legal system.

I am skeptical of the idea of "accruing obligations" in a natural-order legal system because of the inherent costs of proving/disproving them, enforcing them, and so on. I'm starting to think that Islamic law is actually superior to Western law on this point. It's not so much that "usury is bad" as it is that interest-bearing instruments are ill-defined contracts... they have no definite term or extent and are inherently unlimited claims (imagine a loan of $100 at an interest rate of 10% left unpaid for 100 years... this comes to $1.4M, rising to $3.6M after another 10 years, and so on). I think it's better to say "I hereby agree to repay $110 at the end of one year to Jones. Should I fail to provide the payment within 5 days, I hereby transfer title to $200 to Jones." In this way, there is a specific extent to the contract not only in terms of time but also in terms of property amounts. There is no "accrual" - the $200 claim should I fail to repay the loan has a simple $200 face-value. Presumably, the risks of long-term non-payment have already been accounted for in choosing the $200 amount.

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But the quote wasn't just about colonial practices (which was the part I bolded) what I quoted clearly showed that he agreed with the 13th amendment that a convicted criminal could be made into an involuntary servant. He also says at the end of the page (which I didn't quote) that the libertarian is not against prisions per se. Of course other libertarians could disagree with Rothbard.

 

Edit: Of could Rothbard would not agree with forcing somone to be a butler/maid because they can't pay their debts so in this sense he didn't approve of indebtured servitude. It would apply, however, to cases like vandalism of property where the criminal would have to work in order to pay off the damages

"Inflation has been used to pay for all wars and empires as far back as ancient Rome… Inflationism and corporatism… prompt scapegoating: blaming foreigners, illegal immigrants, ethnic minorities, and too often freedom itself" End the Fed P.134Ron Paul
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Clayton replied on Sun, Jan 20 2013 2:26 PM

@gravyten: I think you're misreading Rothbard.

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gravyten577:

 

It could be a good idea if the prisoners were required to work in order to upkeep the costs of the prisons and to pay the victims of crimes. For example a woman that was assaulted by a man would not want that man as a butler but a prison could use the man for forced labor and pay the woman restitution as will as allow the prison to finance itself.

 

Rothbard supported indebtured servitute

 

 

Well…

Actually, to enslave prisoners is probably one of the oldest economic ideas of human civilization.

It was undeniably effective for millennia.

And even during the 20th century, a large part of the output of heavily industrialized nations such as Soviet Russia and the German third Reich was actually produced inside labor camps. 

And old school slave camps are still very big in some third world countries, specially within the gems and prostitution business.

But there are a lot of logistical inefficiencies that large scale slave driving operations face, specially when they deploy old fashioned bondage tactics.

You cannot have self-conscious slaves performing complex co-operative and technologically intensive tasks, because such advanced slaves would eventually find creative ways to terminate their captivity.

Any slavery industry based on differentials of physical power between slaver and enslaved groups finds itself reduced to these primitive niches. To evolve and have highly productive slaves you need to discover how to break their spirit, how to dominate their psychology and thinking up to the neurological level. You can not simply menace their bodies with pain, you have to create a whole new kind of horror.

That's why advanced societies turned to propaganda as a cost-effective substitute for these outdated techniques.

You don't need labor camps with prisoners anymore when you have a massive program of (re)education going on for the whole society.

In these societies, technologically intensive positions are accessible only to the people owning higher education degrees which indicate that they were successfully brainwashed by the educational system and are certified sheeple with valuable technical skills. 

People that think they are smarter, fancier and trendier because their whole life they did exactly what they were told and repeated whatever fashionable elitist mantra they came accorss and now they have a top university degree that proves it.

Worse than Uncle Toms, they are slaves that don't require physical shackles and aren't even aware of their overseers.

 

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Clayton:

@ToxicAssets: Substitute "execution chamber" for "detention facilities". Your argument merely assumes the point in contention - that detention is ever lawful.

Clayton -

My argument assumes that ALL things are driven by economic incentives, even our conceptions of justice or lawfulness.

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Clayton replied on Mon, Jan 21 2013 2:44 AM

My argument assumes that ALL things are driven by economic incentives, even our conceptions of justice or lawfulness.

Really? So the price at which any buyer-seller pair agree to exchange is always equal to the market price?

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Really? So the price at which any buyer-seller pair agree to exchange is always equal to the market price?

 

This question sounds a bit like a non-sequitur but I'll try my best to answer it and wait for further clarification.

As far as I understand there are only prices agreed between buyer-seller pairs.

And these prices tend to become very similar whenever information, communication, transportation, reputation and many other transaction costs are low enough to allow buyers and sellers to seek better counter parts to their transactions.

The process of seeking and profiting from diffentials in price setting between trading pairs is sometimes called brokerage, when done sistematically, and sometimes arbitrage, when done opportunistically; and a market is considered "efficient" insofar as arbitrage opportunities are scarce and brokerage margins are low for most simultaneous or otherwise interchangeable transactions of simultaneous or otherwise interchangeable goods and services. That  often means that such goods and services transactions are effected with very similar prices between different pairs of traders, and any numerical proxy of these prices is commonly called the "market price". It is not a price though, it is a proxy, an abstraction that serves to inform traders the level around prices of certain kinds of transactions are statiscally clustering in a given moment or place.

 

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Meistro replied on Tue, Apr 23 2013 6:39 AM

If there aren't going to be any panopticans I'm opting out of the revolution.

 

... just as the State has no money of its own, so it has no power of its own - Albert Jay Nock

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