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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/16797/the-american-prison-state/

The American Prison State

May 5, 2011 by

The United States incarcerates more people than any country in the world today and throughout history. The financial costs are tremendous and rising. FULL ARTICLE by Daniel J. D’Amico


Dick Fox May 5, 2011 at 9:20 am

While it is true that the “United States incarcerates more people than any country in the world today and throughout history” this is nothing more than a statistic and actually tells us nothing significant.

There are two questions that beg to be answered. 1) Why are people incarcerated? and 2) Why should people be incarcerated?Many studies have been done that show that about 6% or our population commit 90% of the crime. The United States incarcerates about 3% of the population. If all of these individuals are actually part of the 6% then by doubling the incarcerations we could reduce crime in the United States by 90%.

When Jeb Bush became governor of Florida one of his first acts was to increase the number of prison facilities. When asked would the funds be better spent on rehabilitation his response was, “First I want to get the criminals out of people’s bedrooms. Then I will talk about rehabilitation.”

Crime fell sharply not only in Florida but across the United States in the 1990s and the top two reasons have been found to be 1) additional policemen and 2) increased incarceration.

So the question concerning crime should focus us in two directions. First, we should make sure that the individuals incarcerated are the right people, the repeat offenders, the habitual criminals. Then second, we should make sure that they stay incarcerated. Repeat offenders should face seriously harsh incarceration. The crime problem is not one of rehabilitation but one of recidivism.

I for one agree with Jeb. I want the criminal out of my bedroom. Then I will talk with you about rehabilitation. Incarceration should be about just that, locking the criminals away so that they do not disrupt society. That is when we experience true freedom.

BioTube May 5, 2011 at 9:27 am

You clearly missed the part where most of the US prison population is in for noncrimes.

The Anti-Gnostic May 5, 2011 at 9:53 am

Agreed, but the uncomfortable truth is that criminalizing the drug trade means that the legal market will cede the drug trade to pathological individuals. So when we locked up a whole bunch of young males with poor impulse control, albeit unjustly, the result was falling crime rates.

The next issue for Mr. D’Amico to tackle, therefore, is what to do with all these 18-30 YO males who commit the overwhelming majority of violent crime when we dismantle the prison state, an objective with which I am in full agreement. Obviously, abolishing the perverse incentives of the welfare state would be a good start.

augusto May 5, 2011 at 9:41 am

“Crime fell sharply not only in Florida but across the United States in the 1990s and the top two reasons have been found to be 1) additional policemen and 2) increased incarceration.”

By following your reasoning, if the government incarcerates 100% of the population, crime will tend to zero.

But as you said, it’s all statistics: and statistics generally do not account for crimes that happen within prisons: murders, assault, theft (not to mention bribery and drugs, which should not be accounted for because they are non-crimes)…

Horst Muhlmann May 5, 2011 at 9:55 am

I’ll half agree with you on bribery being a non-crime.

It should not be illegal for the non-state actor, but illegal for the state actor. For example, it should not be a crime to offer a cop or bureaucrat a bribe, but it should be illegal for them to accept it. It should also be illegal for a state actor to solicit a bribe.

augusto May 5, 2011 at 11:57 am

yes, of course.

J. Murray May 5, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Smoking marijuana is considered a crime. Putting people behind bars where they’re no longer given access to the drug cuts crime as defined. The problem is how we define crime and use prisons for it. Most “crimes” are completely non-violent in nature. It would be one thing to say all those 30 million people were murderers, but that’s far from the case.

Anthony May 5, 2011 at 2:23 pm

People behind bars have better access to drugs then most people in the streets. Drug use is pervasive in prison, and many people arrested for weed get out of prison addicted to much more serious drugs. Being in jail certainly does not reduce substance abuse.

Dick Fox May 5, 2011 at 3:32 pm

I should have been clearer that when I say “we should make sure that the individuals incarcerated are the right people” I am talking about making sure that our laws do not incarcerate people who are not a threat to others. I assumed that this was clear from my quote by Jeb Bush about getting people out of our bedrooms but apparently it was not.

Prisons should be for those who commit crimes against others. But my point is that we should not make decisions about incarcertaion based on the percentage of the population in prison. I am sure there are those in prison who should not be there, but there are also those walking the streets who should be.

Dan May 5, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Okay, so are you saying you are for or against locking people up for non-violent crimes? I am in full agreement with you that statistics are just statistics.

“Crime fell sharply not only in Florida but across the United States in the 1990s and the top two reasons have been found to be 1) additional policemen and 2) increased incarceration.”

As you pointed out, statistics are not that significant, but more then that, they can be very, very misleading. It is well known that government statistics, especially from the federal government, are very suspect. Crime statistics are not reliable sources of information, they frequently change as political priorities change, etc. In some cities murders, thefts, etc are reported as accidents to make the politicians who have been elected make it look like they have helped reduce crime during their term in office.

Therefore, basing any conclusion on the rate of crime as reported by the federal government is probably not the best idea.

Dick Fox May 6, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Lock up anyone convicted of a violent crime or a crime against property.

Ein Kunsthausmann May 8, 2011 at 9:51 pm

That would obligate you to lock up politicians and taxgatherers, for example, assuming that you could get convictions against them in the courts that are beholden to them for funding. Your prisons, your police departments, and so on would run out of wealth in almost no time at all.

So to satisy your desires even a little, you’ll need to make sure to preserve double standards under statutes and judicial fiat according to which some people may resort to aggression and robbery, but others, not. It seems that popularity is the basic requirement to be part of the privileged crowd. This strikes me as perverse, to say the least, not to mention a bad example for youth, who may confound right and wrong and remain polluted for a long time, perhaps their entire lives.

Furthermore, the moral hazard of the system may have adverse consequences that cannot be easily predicted or, after they occur, have all of their causes readily identified. (The development of an underclass of brutal barbarians comes to mind as one example of “adverse consequences”.) In fact, it would seem that you’ve basically sanctioned organized crime but prohibited punishment of prominent and influential criminals, not to mention the “repeat offenders” who, according to your code of ethics, “should face seriously harsh incarceration”.

Daniel May 9, 2011 at 9:33 am

Using drugs is a crime against property, in this case your own, that is, a vice.

And vices are not crimes.

Daniel May 5, 2011 at 11:28 pm

You are making a huge, ugly jump to positivist conclusions

What constitutes a crime may not be socially harmful, and likewise some activities which are socially harmful are not crimes. e.g. drug use and eminent domain

bobobberson May 5, 2011 at 10:48 am

Court sues someone for presenting info about the courts:


“a drug court program that we believe is run differently from every other drug court in the country, doing some things that are contrary to the very philosophy of drug court. The result? People with offenses that would get minimal or no sentences elsewhere sometimes end up in the system five to ten years.”

Stuart May 5, 2011 at 6:11 pm

It seems that most good libertarians worked out the crime vs non-crime issue on the surface of this issue; however, the synical truth is much more perverse than just crime and punishment. The prison industrial complex is no different than the military industrial complex other than the players and the cost. The process is nearly the same…create the problem (crimes via legislation), build the solution (prisons and administrative bureaucracies), make the people safe (law enforcement and judicial activism). None of this will end until the sheeple stop believing the mass media and start researching the issues from unbiased sources. I fear, however, that we may be too late to turn back the clock.

Dan May 5, 2011 at 7:17 pm

Daniel J. D’ Amico’s is really doing some groundbreaking work in this field. I saw his interview with Jeffrey Tucker awhile back and he has a lot of interesting things to say about the prison system.

The American penal system locks up most people for non-violent crimes. Prisons have utterly failed at their objective of “rehabilitation”. Criminals who enter these facilities leave hating society, and wishing to do more harm. It is truly rare to see someone who is actually reformed after going through such a brutal and de-civilizing process.

Locking people up and putting them away to keep them away from other members of society does not really seem to have helped the rate of crime or the rate of repeat offenders.

While I am have never been into a penal facility, I have seen enough just from working with ex-convicts at some low level jobs I used to have that the system is a failure. I pity both the victim and the convicted in our criminal “justice” system, both lose out no matter the ruling.

The victim must submit to the state’s legal monopoly if a criminal has committed a crime against him. The victim pays (via taxes) for the costs of incarceration of the criminal, and is rarely awarded any damages for loss of life or property. And it’s no small amount – it costs something like $50,000 a year in federal penitentiaries to house an inmate.

The convict basically has no future – he only looks forward to being sexually abused, brutalized, and assaulted in the hellish hole that awaits him. He will leave prison hating the society that he perceives locked him up, and will gain an extensive network of nefarious criminal contacts while in prison.

It wasn’t always this way. In colonial America, for example criminals were rarely if ever locked up but rather had to pay restitution (usually through forced labor) to the person he stole from or whatever at zero cost to the government (i.e. taxpayers). I’m not suggesting that we should use this system, but only that we should consider alternative forms of punishment.

jorod May 7, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Let people grow their own marijuana for personal use. End the profit in the drug trade. People grow their own spices, herbs.

Dan May 7, 2011 at 1:34 pm

It’s a little off topic, but hemp (marijuana) was grown frequently in colonial America as well (it was used for rope). Perhaps they smoked it too, I don’t know. Before the 20th century in this country opium, cocaine and other high-powered narcotics were legal and easily attainable by the masses.

You could buy actually buy opium, heroin, and morphine out of the old sears roebuck catalog from the 1800′s!


Now that these products are highly illegal and prosecutable at the federal level, of course wide scale crime and abuse of these drugs has stopped. What would we do with the feds saving us from ourselves!? Why, we’d have rampant teenage drug abuse, social breakdown, and gang activity all over the place! OMG! Thank you, federal government for saving us from our otherwise drug-induced lowly plight!!!!

David May 7, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Look, this issue is incredibly objective: if you infringe someone else’s rights, you must be punished, and that’s it. The absolute number of incarceration is irrelevant, what matters is what each individual inmate did and what he deserves, we really don’t need to drag Tocqueville into this.
We absolutely should be having the discussion of what constitutes an infringement on someone else’s rights and if imprisonment is always the best punishment. I for one don’t believe pot smokers should get jail time (or anything for that matter), since its an individual choice.

What is ridiculous is to think that anarchism is the utopian solution for everything. That having a Constitutional Republic is somehow the cause of the problems with the prison system, and that we can’t find a solution because “such answers remain unknown so long as criminal-justice processes are monopolized by state authority”(!)

So I’m sticking with the Constitution, thank you.

nate-m May 7, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Look, this issue is incredibly objective: if you infringe someone else’s rights, you must be punished, and that’s it.

Generally speaking the proper recourse for ‘righting wrongs’ with personal property is financial compensation. That is somebody steals something from you then they owe you 300% what the market value is. Stuff like that.

The only proper justification for prisons is for removing violent people from society.

What is ridiculous is to think that anarchism is the utopian solution for everything.

It’s not so much that anarchism is the solution for everything.. it should be the goal. A healthy and civil society has no need for laws and taxation. Problems get taken care of a matter of course of a day’s business by individuals acting on self-interest and taking into account people around them.

The State functions through violence, coercion, and control. Every law that is passed, every statute, every tax is backed up with the promise that if you resist the state long enough and hard enough they will either incarcerate you or kill you (depending on the success and level of your resistance). It is effectively legalized criminal behavior.

(The State in the classic sense were the state is the people that are the mechanism of state government… policemen, judges, military, politicians, bureaucrats, etc)

Now looking around society today it is very very easy to say that while the State is inherently evil in nature it’s a necessary evil. That there are enough violent people out there that we need some force to counteract that. That there is enough of the population that are willing to use violence and deception to hurt other people that we need the same violence in the State to counteract that.

This seems to me to be very reasonable view given current circumstances. However… while State government may be a necessary evil it seems to me that reducing that evil to the smallest amount is ideal. That is as a society evolves and we learn to deal with problems in more constructive manner we should be able to get the state down to a very minimal amount. That should be the goal. However we are seeing the state expanding it’s power and scope massively in the past few years. It’s getting worse and worse and worse, not better. The USA government and other government are implementing more controls, more invasions on individuals, more restrictions, more laws, more enforcement, and more and more people are being put in jail for crimes with no violent element.

This is obviously the wrong direction things should be going.

Keep in mind also that state government is not the only possible form of government.

That having a Constitutional Republic is somehow the cause of the problems with the prison system, and that we can’t find a solution because “such answers remain unknown so long as criminal-justice processes are monopolized by state authority”(!)

The problem is that our constitutional republic is also a democracy. There are several very well understood limits and flaws to democratic government.

Chief among them is the tendency for growth in size and scope of government. That is politicians campaign on promises and people respond to hand outs and want their own political agendas addressed. Politicians promise to solve problems that people want solved. So people vote for them. It is very easy to pass laws to ‘solve problems’, it is very difficult to get rid of laws and promise to undo the promises of people that got elected before you. As time progresses democracy inevitably leads to a erosion of individual rights.

In the case of prisons the USA prison system is a multi-billion dollar industry. People are extremely wealthy based on the vast numbers of Americans sucked into the justice system. Lawyers, prison guard unions, police, etc etc. Entire city’s income is based on providing services to a prison population one way or the other. There is huge political pressure on politicians to increase the size and scope of the prison system from a variety of sources.

So I’m sticking with the Constitution, thank you.

So is your government. The problem with the constitution is that it is not good enough. It’s a very cool document and important in limiting the state, but it has some very serious flaws.

For example:

Most people labor under the delusion that the supreme court is a check against government power. In reality the court system (including the supreme court) is as much as state mechanism as the executive branch or congress. Over the decades the presidents and congress, who are all very pro-state power, have put very pro-state power judges into SCOTUS. The SCOTUS is no more a check on state power then the president’s veto power or congress’s budget and legislative duties.

There are many founding fathers that look on in horror to what our government has become under the constitution, but there are many that would very happy about how things have turned out. Not all of them were pro-freedom. In fact many of them really hated the idea of individual freedom and felt that the central government should be as powerful as possible. The constitution represents a compromise between groups of pro-freedom and pro-state people.

Many ‘founding fathers’ passed laws that put newspaper editors in jail that dared to provide a voice to the opposition political party. They made it a crime to support the opposition’s campaign for office. They called it sedation. All this was perfectly constitutional.

What we really need is more constitution amendments to further limit government and close loopholes that have allowed government to expand massively in really bad directions. Loopholes such as the ‘commerce clause’.

David May 7, 2011 at 8:11 pm

“Generally speaking the proper recourse for ‘righting wrongs’ with personal property is financial compensation.”

Not that we were limiting ourselves to property crimes (there is murder, rape, and other stuff as well), but under our current “criminal-justice processes monopolized by state authority” you are perfectly able to propose legislation and lobby congress to institute fine-only punishments for property crimes. No need for anarchism there.

“Over the decades the presidents and congress, who are all very pro-state power, have put very pro-state power judges into SCOTUS”

Any system of government is vulnerable to subversion. Weather anarchism, socialism, or a constitutional republic. Do you really think Anarchism would be tougher to collapse into Statism than a constitutionally limited republic?

“we should be able to get the state down to a very minimal amount. That should be the goal.”
“What we really need is more constitution amendments to further limit government and close loopholes that have allowed government to expand massively in really bad directions. Loopholes such as the ‘commerce clause’.”


nate-m May 7, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Not that we were limiting ourselves to property crimes (there is murder, rape, and other stuff as well),

Very nice selective quoting.

Perhaps you skipped over the part were I said

The only proper justification for prisons is for removing violent people from society.

That sort of thing irritates me and tend to push me to behave badly.

Any system of government is vulnerable to subversion.

I am not talking about subversion. I am talking about what democracies turn into when given enough time… which is socialism. Either fascist or collectivist in approach the end is the same. This is not subversion, at least not in the way I envision it, when it’s done legally and out in the open. It’s just democracy working as democracy always does.

People like Obama get elected because they are telling people what they want to hear. He is not like this secret guy that has the wool pulled over our eyes. Most people don’t even bother to look. He is just doing what he has advocated his entire life that should be done. Unfortunately (from my perspective) it is a mild evil incarnate, doesn’t change the fact that it’s all done legally and (relatively) out in the open.

Weather anarchism, socialism, or a constitutional republic. Do you really think Anarchism would be tougher to collapse into Statism than a constitutionally limited republic?

Seeing how most of the world existed in a state of anarchism prior to military conquest by state governments then I’d have to say that anarchist societies tend to be very vulnerable to state take over. Independent societies resisted for a few hundred years or so, but eventually pretty much the entire world has been conquered.

Violence works… Hence the state is a pervasive element in the majority of human’s lives.

It’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t mean that we can become civilized nation at some distant point in the future if we keep working hard to not only to defend but to expand freedom.

Sione May 8, 2011 at 2:59 pm

A lot of people in North America like to refer back to the US Constitution document with the belief that if only it were obeyed or amended just so, then the political situation (and the economic and the social) would be superior to what is the case presently. There is little real evidence available that supports such a belief. A much more thorough investigation is required to establish the nature and effects of the Constitution. Bad new! The results of that enquiry aint so good.

The political machinations that led to the creation and implementation of the US Constitution make for sobering readings. In effect a peaceful coup detat was arranged and executed. The lusters for power got their way and political structures (the means) to attain centralised control over a great country (term is meant in the geographic and economic sense) were firmly set in place, ready to be exploited. Eventually the intent was realised. It was merely a matter of time. The fundamental structures enabled by the Constitution and very nature of the Constitution itself guaranteed the present result.

Well worth reading Prof Hoppe on the nature and history of political constitutions. All over the world the motivations of those who promote political constitutions, write them, enable them, put them into authority over all the other people (including those who never agree or sign or grant assent to them), enforce them (yes, that is a biggie- enforcement), interpret them (a specialist role for a special interest enabled an authority power by…….. the constitution!), operate the political structures called into being by them, and all the rest of it are similar- always have been. They are seekers of power and priviledge. Their document is the formalisation, setting in place the grants of power and privildge while hiding under the propaganda of being a great step forward into social stability, advancement and “justice for all”! Lots of high sounding words to camoflage something quite base.

Now that’s not to say that there are not those involved with honour and honest intent. There are those. That they are involved is very important, for they assist mightily in the final document gaining respect and prestigue. Their presence lends legitimacy and honour. That they are eventually compromised and politically out-manouevred is often not perceived by those attending, let alone the public at large.

Anyway, the recommendation is to take a careful look at the situation leading to the creation of a constitution prior to thoughlessly eulogising it. Likelyhood is that the commonly accepted mythology of its creation and meaning is not correct. Likelyhood is that it does not provide the solutions you seek.


David May 8, 2011 at 10:23 pm

“Seeing how most of the world existed in a state of anarchism prior to military conquest by state governments”

Yeah.. I don’t think we’re talking about the same anarchism here. I’m talking about the system Rothbard first presented in his 1975 article “A society without a State” (see mises.org/journals/lf/1975/1975_01.pdf) and not some state of tribal warfare we had a few thousand years ago. In any case, glad you agree that anarchism would be very easy to collapse into Statism.

To repeat myself, I think we just need to go back to the Constitution, Ron Paul agrees with me.

Daniel May 9, 2011 at 9:44 am

Ireland 650-1650

One thousand years of anarchy

Ein Kunsthausmann May 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm

David, “we just need to go back to the Constitution”?

Imagine that it’s the evening of Tuesday, September 18th, 1787. You and I are at a pub in Philadelphia where we and a few others are reading Article VII, which was published the day before in Constitution for the United States of America.

Ok, so how can Article VII be relevant to “Establishment” if Article VII is itself not yet established? If, in the future, the Constitution were established, how thereafter could A7 be anything but superfluous? It’s a plain fact that that article has no business whatsoever being in the proposed constitution. Therefore the text of Article VII should have been omitted.

Maggie Gilmore May 8, 2011 at 3:21 pm

“Not that we were limiting ourselves to property crimes (there is murder, rape, and other stuff as well) but under our current “criminal-justice processes monopolized by state authority” you are perfectly able to propose legislation and lobby congress to institute fine-only punishments for property crimes. No need for anarchism there.”

Murder, rape, etc. are property crimes. Your body is your property and any threat or action of violence against you is a violation of your property rights. All crimes should be able to be settled via restitution, violent ones included, and it should be up to the victim or victim’s representative to determine the acceptable punishment or amount to be collected. This could be incarceration, but history has shown that people are much more likely to seek restitution because the “eye for an eye” method is pretty distasteful and only provides psychological reparations.

And I can ‘propose legislation and lobby congress to institute fine-only punishments for property crimes’, can I? Sounds like a piece of cake. I guess I can also propose legislation and lobby congress to shut down the Federal Reserve and end the Drug War, huh?

David May 8, 2011 at 10:07 pm

“I guess I can also propose legislation and lobby congress to shut down the Federal Reserve”

Yes you can, thats what Ron Paul and other few congressman are trying to do. Join the fight.

ABR May 7, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Another approach to crime is shunning or exile. For example: a shopkeeper refuses to serve a thief until he pays restitution to his victim. Owners of a road refuse access to a known murderer.

What isn’t clear to me is the degree of force a victim is entitled to in order to achieve restitution.

What is clear to me is that prisons are a monstrous waste of money, housing individuals who are innocent of aggression along side hardened criminals.

Dan May 7, 2011 at 11:47 pm

Sure, you see shunning practiced very effectively in lot of different societies (this matters because it does not involve the threat or use of force). There are ways the market and people in general figure out someone is a criminal, and steps are taken, like the ones you mentioned. The details of a privately-run, non coercive based code or law I do not pretend to know (no one can), but there is a lot of material out there by Walter Block and Rothbard on the subject.

My question regarding a non-state court system is: How do you effectively ensure a dangerous murder for instance will obey your an arbitration-court’s ruling? What if shunning isn’t enough? I am not going to dismiss anarchism on that basis, but it does make me wonder. More research is required.

Daniel May 8, 2011 at 1:25 am

A book that has a good idea on how it would work is “For An Emergent Governance” where the author frames the government in the following light: there is the government, which is just the administration; then there is the state, which exists ideologically and marginally. The Ideological state is the (statist) mindset which simply takes for granted what the government does is socially beneficial and legitimate, thus a form of positivism. This also gives it the power to tax. The marginal state is when it actually has to get its hands dirty and actually employ violence against people.

A characteristic separating the two is that the marginal state is unable to fund itself. Think of Iraq. The cost involved to “keep” Iraq is in fact greater than the GDP of Iraq. Without a “back home” where the ideological state is given funds to oppress people on the other side of the world, it would be unable to do this.

This distinction is important because someone exerting violence against another would be acting just like a marginal state, and since his actions would not fall under the umbrella of legitimacy (or some other fairytale) it would fall upon him the social cost involved in taking said action. That is, (I gather) most people would find it just for someone to execute a known killer, whereas they would consider executing someone for stealing through subterfuge a heinous act.

The difference in economic terms would be one of opportunity cost. Whereas nowadays, the government gets to create antisocial laws and enforce them with impunity (thus causing great social harm), in a stateless society, any person or governing body would have to rely on actual authority (that is, not power but how well it can serve its customers) to be chosen to represent others and acting in ways that are not socially beneficial would quickly find itself on the road to ostracism.

Damn, this didn’t end as well as I wanted to, but I think it passes the right idea along.

Keith May 9, 2011 at 12:02 am

I’ve given much thought to this and come to the conclusion that ostracism would be the ultimate deterrent to evasion of a court’s compensation ruling.
It’s sounds innocuous at first, but in practice I believe ostracism could be akin to a death sentence. Basically excluding the perpetrator from society means they have no property rights including the right to life.
I could imagine an entire bounty hunter industry dedicated to seeking out compensation skippers. The murderer, rapist or child molester would likely reach a gruesome end at the hand of a professional in that sort of scenario unless of course they were good at hiding.

Daniel May 9, 2011 at 9:49 am

That is quite true. In a society where governments are actually voluntary associations which provide protection (and retribution I guess), individuals which commit enough heinous crimes to warrant being an actual outlaw, that is, someone who no one else is willing to provide protection could be targeted by anyone else for marque and reprisal.

Likewise, those voluntary associations which passed heinous rulings against individuals not seen as deserving of said punishment would loose its relevance as an agency in the service of its customers.

milehimystre May 8, 2011 at 2:43 am

Unfortunately, most of you have either missed it, or are oblivious to the real motivation behind the Prison Industrial Complex. it started with a criminal named Richard Nixon, and was finished by another criminal who went by the name Ronald Reagan. and as opposed to the rest of you, I have seen the inside of these places mistakenly reffered to as ‘correctional facilities’, and tragically the last thing they do is correct. the last thing the pic was built for was to serve the interests of public safety. and now, it is nothing but a band aid on what is becoming pervasive in this country; addiction and mental illness. make no mistake about it; your gov’t has declared war on people with a condition and those with the wrong color skin. all of the philosophical observations i’ve read in this blog have very little basis in reality. especially jeb bush’s florida. it’s all nothing but a sad, tragic joke, and has become the most destructive, counterproductive form of control a government has imposed on it’s own people

milehimystre May 8, 2011 at 2:54 am

Read ‘The New Jim Crow’ by Michelle Alexander. then go to wikipedia and look up incarceration in th u.s. but before you do, strap yourself in, because the ride you’re about to go on is gonna be a rough one. that is of course, if anybody wants to know the truth. otherwise, your delusion is all yours…

Freedom Fighter May 8, 2011 at 7:12 am

We live in a prison universe. Reality imprisons our souls into limited and vulnerable individual flesh life forms. A crime against the soul. From this perspective, the USA’s prison state pales in comparison to the crimes of God against the soul.

Freedom Fighter May 8, 2011 at 7:14 am

But to leave a comment relevant to the scope of the present article, I would say this:

Most prison inmates are incarcerated for victimless “crimes”. The problem of our prison state system is a problem of too much laws, too vague laws and laws that criminalize victimless behavior.

Carcajou May 9, 2011 at 1:52 am

If Mises had stayed in Austria where he belonged, he could have written a real review of a Prison State. Mises should have been turned away at Ellis Island so he could go back and spread his BS in his homeland. Now, his disciples incite hate and dissention in the country that saved old Mises from the camps and possible execution.

Colin Phillips May 9, 2011 at 3:54 am

Obvious troll is obvious. Come back when you’re a little more original.

Daniel May 9, 2011 at 9:50 am

Go back to Canadia

Juanito May 9, 2011 at 11:10 am

For rulling axis is important to keep status quo on drugs. While: Afghanistan has a long and troubled history with the opium poppy, beginning in 1979 during the Soviet invasion. This cash crop is used in manufacturing heroin, as well as narcotic pain relievers such as, morphine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone. What began as a means of financing a resistance to the Soviets, grew into a widespread practice of making easy money. This continued until July of 2000, when Taliban leader Mohammed Omar declared the cultivation of opium un-Islamic, and banned production. After the ban, Afghanistan’s total production dropped 91% from 82,172 hectares in 2000, to only 7,606 hectares in 2001.

According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, after the US invasion in 2001, Afghanistan now accounts for 93% of world’s total opium production. Production spiked 96% from 7,606 hectares in 2001, to 193,000 hectares in 2007. Helmand province in the south of Afghanistan, an area roughly about the size of West Virginia, now produces 50% of the world’s opium alone. The Taliban’s ban on farming the opium poppy before the US invasion was so effective, that Helmand province recorded no opium cultivation in the 2001. The previous year it had been the highest producing province, and currently is again. We are told that “the Taliban makes them do it” and we are also told that this drug money funds the Taliban.

Yet we protect its manufacture and give them resources to manufacture illegal drugs, that supposedly fund the same people were fighting.

Does anyone else see the obvious contradictions here?

Another point is that NATO controls all air traffic in Afghanistan, the Taliban has no airlift capability.

So, how are the Taliban moving all these drugs out of Afghanistan if the Taliban has no means to move it.

I guarantee you that 93% of the world’s opium does not make it out of Afghanistan by horseback over mountain ranges, especially when the countries borders are closely monitored for insurgent traffic by US drone aircraft.

You want answers? Look towards the CIA. Anybody remember the CIA’s proprietary airline Air America and its drug smuggling being exposed in congressional session, the Iran-Contra guns for drugs scandal and it being exposed to the public in congress?

So rulling axis controls $ 1 trilion industry, very primitive bussiness: extract something from plant, cook it and sell for highest possible profit, which is killing 100 000 people world wide. To keep drugs illegal in USA is giving them oportunities to spend money on war on drugs and support police state and they are putting white trash into few choices after keep them in school for fancy education: low wage job since 10 milions illegal workforce competition is kept in the country, food stamps and deperate life, join military, and those who do not fit can work in prison as slave labor Auschwitz style.
Contract Details:
Federal Prison Industries, Washington, D.C., was awarded on Dec. 17 a $10,623,220 firm-fixed-price contract. This award provides for outer tactical vests to Afghanistan. Work will be performed in Yazoo City, Miss., with an estimated completion date of June 30, 2011. One bid was solicited with one bid received. The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., is the contracting activity (W91CRB-08-D-0045).

Total Contract Value: $10,623,220

There is 600 000 drug related non violent prisoners.
Lawrence Britt, writing in Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 23, Number 2, summarizes fourteen common traits of a fascist society.

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause

4. Supremacy of the Military

5. Rampant Sexism

6. Controlled Mass Media

7. Obsession with National Security

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined

9. Corporate Power is Protected

10. Labor Power is Suppressed

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption

14. Fraudulent Elections

Federal government has not common law. So under what law they operate?
Prisoners are simply put on lawless status, riped off of all rights. Crime rate in prisons is so high, that even statistics do not include them. It is estimated that there are over 300,000 instances of prison rape a year. Scenario #1. A white middle-class man, let’s say a car dealer, is picked up for sale of cocaine, and is locked into a communal cell with four black inmates, all whom have done substantial amounts of time in prison. The white man is of small stature and has no street smarts. The chances of him being raped:. Damn near 100%.

Prisoners do not even get paid minimum wage, so they can pay their claims outside like child support, court expenses etc. All profit goes to corporate frankenstein pocket.

Circle is closed.

Ein Kunsthausmann May 9, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Little John, Britt’s essay was dangerously misleading to say the least, as you should expect given that it was published in a magazine written for secular humanists. The first item on his list should have been “contempt for individualism” in which case #2, “disdain for human rights”, can be deleted. The second should have been “powerful collectivism”. The third would be “enduring, emotional nationalism”.

There are other shortcomings in Britt’s list that should be obvious to everyone who regards with contempt nanny statism, welfare statism, and statist money and banking. Other items to add to the list are:

-an intrusive, parental government with, for examples, welfare programs, health care programs, old age pension schemes, and programs to protect the government’s subjects from the consequences of their own vices.
-compulsory governmental schooling of children
-nationalized money and a banking industry cartelized by governmental intervention

It just so happens that “human rights” is leftwing code that’s used as a license for parental and nannylike government. I’ve just barely scratched the surface of Britt’s essay, but I hope that you get the point. Of course, these changes wouldn’t have been very popular among nattering, leftleaning nabobs during the hysteria-filled years of GWB’s presidency. Nor would they have been conducive to sales of “Laurence Britt’s novel, June, 2004” which “depicts a future America dominated by right-wing extremists”.

It just happens to be an embarrasing truth that fascism is not nearly so very different from communism as, say, a progressive or a Democrat likes to pretend. And communism is nothing if not militaristic. (See the 4th item of Britt’s list.) Nor is fascism right wing. Nor does fascism tend arise among right wingers, though fascists regularly seek out rightwingers for their support and attempt to drag them leftward. It worked this way for the NSDAP, and we see similar behavior from the neocons. Yet both the NSDAP and the neocons remained and do remain welfare statists, among other things. Their economic policies, like those of progressives, tend to bring about a merger of governement with business that preserves the superficial appearances of private property and private enterprise but which, if the progressive agenda were carried out to its conclusion, would have most of the reality of communism.

It should go without saying that if you want to stop fascism, neoconservatism, or national socialism and to eliminate the risks that they pose, then you need to undermine their institutional foundations such that progressivism, too, is undermined. The problem is that conservatives are always blocking correction, esp. when you dare to remind them that militarism is pernicious and that crony capitalism really is capitalism.

Joseph May 10, 2011 at 3:00 am

All debate about fascism/socialism/communism aside, what’s going on in this so called ‘criminal justice system’ is a disaster one more than just one level. There’s very little criminal and nothing justice about it, and it has given rise to one of the ugliest forms of capitalization we’ve ever seen: The privat prison industry. colorado spends upwards of $709 million dollars a year on prisons, and this year the legislature cut education by some $200 million, AND there’s a movement that’s begun to raise taxes for the purposes of helping higher education so the middle class can still afford a college ed for their child! Those reasons alone should be enough to re-think EVERYTHING whein comes to the PIC, but also consider this; it costs $30,000/yr to lock up someone who

Joseph May 10, 2011 at 3:45 am

9 times out of 10, did something while in the grasp of their vicious cycle, when it only cost around $10,000/yr to send someone to college for a degree of some sort, and that is just a direct comparison. The indirect costs are just as staggering. And if you consider what happens to someone once they get out, being labeled a felon FOR LIFE, it’s hard to see how prison is any kind of anwser for just about anyone but the absolute worst society has to offer. It’s politicians manipulating the public through fear, and phony capitalist exploiting all sides. Getting rich in the process. I truly can’t belive this is happening in the ‘Land of the FREE, and the Home of the Brave’. 2.3 million people locked up. 7.5 million under some kind of ‘Correctional Control’, and Cops as far as the eyes can see, violating our constitutional rights every frickin’ day. Oh and countless convicted felons disenfranchised and discriminated against LEGALLY. Where’s the shame? Is an under caste that important to you America???

MLJ May 20, 2011 at 2:13 pm

The prison system is mere slavery. Calling it “corrections” blinds people and gets them to waste time arguing about the supposed crime of the person incarcerated. This is handy for the people in it because they’ve made opponents talk about the wrong subject. Call it slavery and everything will fit. Human property, jailhouse snitches, releasing inmates for testimony, prosecution of retarded people. It’s all about who’s easy to get. Murderers testifying against the innocent! This is trading one piece of property for another.
That’s why we have a drug war.
The child “welfare” or child “protection” system is even more falsely named. It’s the child prison system and “adoption” is baby trafficking.

Kunsthausmann May 29, 2011 at 6:37 pm

“The prison system is mere slavery.”

Don’t you think that’s a wee bit hyperbolic? Indeed, to call America’s PIC a system of corrections is ludicrous and the euphemistic stuff of tyrannies like those in Russia during the Soviet era. Nevertheless, to be a slave requires more than merely being held in bondage or, worse, to be falsely imprisoned. At minimum, one must be a drudge. But is that really true in general of the PIC? In fact, is enslavement, per se, the motive?

I think that a more reasonable assertion is that the American PIC is a system of petty vindictiveness and scapegoating, esp. for rightwing malcontents who crave victims to lash out at and to blame for their own unhappiness. It’s also a system for generating profits for businesspeople who supply prisons and for those who build them, not to mention to provide jobs for people likely to vote for the Democrats. (Is there a better explanation for the outlandish cost of operating American prisons?) I believe also that a few prisons are operated by private companies. We can also add the problem of wannabe hanging judges who lack free hands to execute as many convicts as they’d like to. They’d like to hang more, but they’re willing to take what they can get. Thus do we get many prisons jammed to the rafters.

Still, I don’t think any of this is sufficient to warrant calling it “mere slavery”, not even when it’s found that some of the prisoners are forced to perform labor. Surely, those individuals may be called slaves, but this fact hardly warrants a generalization much less trivialization of the other motives, e.g. the petty vindictiveness of Republicans and rightwing conservatives.

atlasaikido May 29, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Re: Kunsthausmann May 29, 2011 at 6:37 pm

“The prison system is mere slavery.” Don’t you think that’s a wee bit hyperbolic?

I should not allow Kunsthausmann to slip away without comment about slavery in America–let alone the system its leaders use to ENFORCE its unambiguous master slave relationships. Being a “drudge”/robot in the midst of a police AND prison state is hardly a criteria for slavery–it may be a result, or it may be a defense, or it may be stockholm syndrome but it is not a cause of slavery.

Underlying a Zero Government–as opposed to what we have–is a premise: that every human being is his or her self-owner. That is so self-evident as to be undeniable, and is therefore an axiom – for any attempt to deny it would require one to assume implicitly that it is true; the very act of asserting “I do not own my self” can not be performed, for if it were true one would have no right to assert any opinion about anything at all without one’s owner’s permission.

That fundamental axiom is however denied in practice every time ANY government does anything AND would include the prison system and is NOT excluded from that system.

This site Mises.org is replete with sources as to what a police state is and the prison state and enslavement that necessarily follows.

Kunsthausmann May 30, 2011 at 12:13 am


First, where is it claimed that being a druge is “a cause of slavery”? Rather, a point was being made about the necessary and sufficient conditions of slavery.

Second, your claim that “that every human being is his or her self-owner” is not nearly so self-evident as you like to suppose. Once problem is the vagueness of “self”. It so happened that when you posted your comment I was writing a comment about “self-ownership”, whatever that means, to be posted elsewhere at mises.org. A link to it will be added here once it’s been posted. One of the important points, however, is mentioned below.

Third, your claim that “[t]hat is so self-evident as to be undeniable” is figurative at best but by no means literally true. A nihilist can most certainly deny that he exists by denying that there is existence, in which case I think it a fair assumption that he would, if quizzed a bit further, deny that he owns his self. Of course, his claim that there is no existence, which he might actually be deranged enough to believe (or at least to believe that he believes it), would be nonsense. He can’t make it without first existing, but this fact doesn’t make the claim, “there is existence”, undeniable. Likewise, it is deniable that “that every human being is his or her self-owner”.

Fourth, one most certainly can perform theact of asserting “I do not own my self”. To wit:

“I do not own my self”.

You see? I told you so. Attempt successful. Whether or not I believe the claim “I do not own my self” is irrelevant, though probably there’s some leftist who would both state the denial with belief, too. Deniability is possible. Unfortunately, you let hyperbole ride roughshod over fact.

Btw, to refrain from affirming the claim “I own my self” is by no means the same as asserting “I do not own my self”. I presume you are familiar enough with the principle that although there’s nothing between affirmation and denial, there is reservation of judgement.

Fifth: “his or her”. Does a body do any owning? I think not. Is a mind or a soul something with the attribute of sex, which is biological? If so, what evidence and argument entails the conclusion? The grammatical genders masculine and feminine seem inappropriate in this context, but “its” would sidestep the problem of sex and gender.

Sixth, you would have a better argument if you asserted as a fundamental axiom that “I own my body”. The term, body, is unambiguous, even though it’s true that many of its details are yet mysterious. Unfortunately, there is a complication suggested by the work of Richard Feynman and others and, furthermore, the word “I’ is ambiguous. Does it refer to a mind only? To a soul only? To both mind and soul? To mind and body, but not soul? To soul and body, but not mind? To mind, soul and body? What’s missing is a complete, correct theory of personality, but libertarians don’t seem to be very interested in a basic problem of ontology. People who espouse “self-ownership” generally disregard ontology, or harbor childish superstitions, just as they disregard problems of how to make sense of a mind or soul as property.

Seventh, one might be a slave of the police state while outside of prison, but it doesn’t follow that being locked up in, say, a 5′ x 5′ cell is a perpetuation of enslavement. It could well be that the slavery ends when the imprisonment begins, though of course, as noted, this is not necessarily so. Suppose your body is locked up against your will in a 5′ x 5′ dungeon beneath your home. The body is imprisoned, and the will correlated with it, trapped with the body, unable to exercise dominion over material things outside the dungeon. (Ignore dreams while sleeping.) Escape is impossible, given the construction (welded steel walls, floor, ceiling, and door). There are no tools with which to attack the dungeon. You do no labor. There’s no slavery.

Eighth. “…AND would include the prison system and is NOT excluded from that system.” Definitional claim about what concept(s) the word slavery is to be assigned to.

Ninth. It’s not necessary to SHOUT (“ENFORCE”, “AND”, etc.) or to use Pretentious Capitalization (“Zero Government”). In English, emphasis in writing can be achieved with italicization.

AtlasAikido May 30, 2011 at 6:41 pm

It is–at times like this more–useful to imagine how a truly laissez-faire society, one entirely emancipated from the shackles of state coercion, might exist and operate. Morris and Linda Tannehill examine this very idea in The Market for Liberty: Is Government Really Necessary?

The Statist will ask but how will you do this and that and this and so forth?


How, the statist is heard to question, might common disputes find resolution without the currently preferred monopoly of the state’s courts?

What about private monopolies that would ruthlessly jack up prices and bleed us working-class proletarians to death?

By what means might a laissez-faire society offer protection from foreign aggressors?

How might the personal liberties underpinning the whole system be protected if it were not for the tireless work of the state’s police and its myriad other law-enforcement agencies?

In response: “Freedom is not only as moral as governmental slavery is immoral,” the authors write, “it is as practical as government is impractical.”

The Tannehills argue persuasively, the free market provides solutions that governments would never dream of. “The big advantage of any action of the free market,” contend the Tannehills is….see link

Freedom, Naturally
Mises Daily: Thursday, May 26, 2011 by Joel Bowman

The part I particularly liked was this:

Whenever there arises in conversation the mere suggestion of a totally free, laissez-faire market — the possibility that human beings might even be able to survive (much less thrive) without the safety net of state control — apologists for “benevolent government” invariably step atop their soapboxes and ask, “Yes, but who will provide education for the masses, if not the public schools?” or “Who will care for the sick and weak, if not the public hospitals?”

Indeed, these are questions that deserve thoughtful, honest answers. But these questions assume realities that are not in evidence.

They suppose that “the public” (i.e., the state) actually has money to “provide” these services, rather than, as is actually the case, first having to expropriate (steal) it from private, productive individuals. Furthermore, the fallacy of benign governmental control relies on the idea that governments can provide essential services more reliably and cost-effectively than the private sector.

In other words, the government’s obligation to provide essential services is more reliable and effective than the private sector’s opportunity to provide essential services. Admittedly, this debate does not lend itself to easy, black-and-white conclusions.

But as the Tannehills argue persuasively, the free market provides solutions that governments would never dream of. “The big advantage of any action of the free market,” contend the Tannehills,

is that errors and injustices are self-correcting. Because competition creates a need for excellence on the part of each business, a free-market institution must correct its errors in order to survive. Government, on the other hand, survives not by excellence, but by coercion; so an error or flaw in a governmental institution can (and usually will) perpetuate itself almost indefinitely, with its errors being “corrected” by further errors. Private enterprise must, therefore, always be superior to government in any field.

(It is worth mentioning here that corporations acting in collusion with the state are not private enterprises as the Tannehills define them. They are simply entities that have co-opted the government’s “gun-for-hire” to do their dirty work for them. Think Wall Street “bailout” recipients and their army of DC lobbyists. Indeed, think any institution at all that seeks unfair protection or promotion from the state.)

Freedom, Naturally
Mises Daily: Thursday, May 26, 2011 by Joel Bowman

AtlasAikido June 2, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Paramilitary police are a relatively recent state invention. They’ve metastasized into a domestic occupation force, enhancing government, institutionalizing injustice, plundering with permission, Tasing with perversion, cloaked in full immunity, and not protecting people. Whatever you do, don’t call 911. As a mundane, your home is no longer your castle.

204. Police Epidemic
On June 1, 2011, In Podcast, By admin
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Lew Rockwell interviews William Norman Grigg.

* A Note on Burke’s Vindication of the Natural Society by Murray N. Rothbard
* William Norman Grigg: LRC Archives
* William Norman Grigg: Pro Libertate blog
* William Norman Grigg: Pro Libertate radio program

And 18 Signs That Life In U.S. Public Schools Is Now Essentially Equivalent to Life In U.S. Prisons
End of the American Dream

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