From the individual to the system…

I’ve been trying to write a survey of the literature on libertarian punishment theory. This body of work overlaps to a large degree with the anarchy v. state literature. Each typical justification for the state or some specific state-operated mechanism of justice (police, courts, production of law, prisons, etc.) shares a similar structure. They begin by making reference to the harsh conditions of the state of nature. Then they imlpy a superior social condition achieved by means of the institution in question, and conclude with a normative justification for the institution’s creation and maintenance. In other words, everyone benefits by living in a society protected by the institution of punishment, therefore a victim or an enforcer is legitimized to punish the guilty becasue even the guilty has the benefit of such protection.

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Drinking leads to higher wages, and binge drinking too.

Stringham’s piece demonstrating that social drinking builds social capital is fun and intelligent. It makes complete sense that when the alternative to having a couple of drinks at the bar with co-workers or potential clients, is sitting at home watching TV, the drinking man is king. If anyone needed a little bit of convincing that drinking was for their own good, now they’ve got it and they’ve got Ed Stringham to thank.
This related piece, linked to by Tyler Cowen has me a little more sceptical. At first glance, I can’t help but think it suffers from an availability bias. It states in the abstract that they hold constant for drug use. I’m curious what proportion of the sample was elliminated by this. My guess would be a huge chunk. What we really have to ask is, what kind of tenth grade binge drinker doesn’t recreationally use drugs as well? My guess would be somone destined to earn a significantly higher wage than the rest of his peers.

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Police flight in New Orleans

As part of the Social Change Workshop at the Mercatus Center, a group of GMU econ students have been meeting with Pete Boettke this semester to discuss the economics of New Orleans and disaster recovery in general. We’ve been reading The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas Brinkley to spark discussion.
The topic of conversation that I’ve found most interesting is in regards to the following piece of historical fact. After Katrina hit why did so many officers quit or abandon their posts (an article from the New York Times). This didn’t seem to happen in other cities and especially not in New York after September 11th (a catastrophe of at least similar perceived proportion). I think two simple economic concepts hep explain the majority of this phenomenon; purposivity and sympathy. In either case it is both rational and possibly reasonable (depending opon your opinions of moral obligations) for cops to have quit the force when they did. Let me clarify, I’m not trying to justify a cop quitting his job or doing any other sort of behavior, all I’m saying is that what we observed, cops quitting their posts isn’t all that surprising.

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Herbert Spencer: Prison Ethics

I was recently directed to Herbert Spencer’s “Essays” as a source on prison ethics and libertarian punishment theory. I was specifically looking for something along the lines that, libertarians lack a theory of punishment but do possess a theory of restitution. I didn’t find such a quote explicitly though I beleive the claim to be true and the publication to be in agreement to it. The entire relevant section is contained in the extended entry of this post.

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Capital specificity for police forces.

I just read this story linked by Lew, about California police shootings. The article mentions that a number of California police districts have had soiled pasts of deadly shootings and they commonly complain of low budgets and an innability to afford non deadly force technologies such as stun guns, pepper spray, and rubber bullets.

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