What gives some people the right to put others in prison? Is prison – and the criminal justice system generally – an ethically permissible method for dealing with criminality?
Individualist anarchist and prison abolitionist Jason Lee Byas goes over the common justifications for the prison system and explains why none of them succeed. Specifically, he covers the doctrines of retributivism (specifically desert retributivism and expressive retributivism), deterrence, rehabilitation, and rights forfeiture, arguing against each. In place of prison, Byas proposes a tort system of restitution. Monetary restitution may not be sufficient to right the wrong of a crime, says Byas; but it is all that the law should mandate, leaving other desired correction or compensation up to community-based initiatives (Byas cites restorative justice as an example of the sort of institutions that can take the place of those corrective aspects of criminal justice that retribution does not address). Byas also explains how a system of monetary restitution can get around problems of class-based inequality (for example, if someone is so rich that they don’t mind having to pay to commit a crime, or if someone is so far in debt that another dent wouldn’t matter). Finally, he explains how violent offenders who pose an “ongoing threat” might be handled in his preferred system.
Economist Bryan Caplan breaks down the law into three components: rule formation, arbitration, and enforcement. For all three, he provides examples of how these are already provided without the state in many contexts. He also explains the theoretical reasons we shouldn’t be surprised to find law provided without the state, usually better than the state does. He goes on to speculate how the law could be provided if there were no state at all. Finally, he considers two common objections: that law without the state leads to chaos, and that providers of legal services in a world without the state will inevitably collude and come together to form a new state.
1:14 – Non-state law that already exists
2:23 – Innovation in the creation of new rules (copyright)
5:11 – Private enforcement of law: private security, ostracism, bonds
7:32 – Private arbitration and private rule formation
9:13 – Benefits of competition
13:54 – Expanding role of contracts
19:03 – Private law without contracts
20:24 – Law without any government
27:34 – Collusion objection and economies of scale
29:27 – Tyler Cowen’s collusion argument from network industries
Why do students go to school? The usual answer is to learn. But if this is true, why do students rejoice at canceled class? Why do they prefer an easy “A” instructor over a difficult one who has more to offer? Why don’t they just sit in on classes for free, which you can do at many of the best schools? And why is the final year of school so much more lucrative than other years, given that we don’t usually learn more that year?
These problems and others fall into place when we consider that we go to school more for the degree than for the education. The main purpose of education is to send a signal to employers, says economist Bryan Caplan. Employers pay more for college-educated employees not because what they learned in school was itself useful, but because the fact that they got the degree demonstrates that they must be generally smart, disciplined, and conformist. This makes little difference to the individual – you should still go to school and send that signal. But for society, this makes education a bad deal; status, unlike learning, is zero-sum, making much of the education system a waste of resources. In this interview, Caplan explains the signaling model in more detail, addresses objections, and predicts what would happen if his prescriptions were followed.