Given my continual criticisms of contemporary criminal justice systems and the practices of mass incarceration, I am often confronted with the question, “what would you replace prisons with?”
This is a very confused and biased question. Simply put, I do not know what an ideal criminal justice system should or would look like in a free society – no one does. That is the whole point of the Hayekian perspective.
Secondly, this question demonstrates that the inquisitor is misunderstanding the argument I am trying to espouse. My claim is that the monopolization of legitimized force by government authority is more costly than it is beneficial. You do not ask a doctor what his proposal is to replace cancer.
Here is a great example. Business Insider via the NYT is reporting one million U.S. war veterans are currently in prison. After sharing on facebook, Robin Hanson chirped, “1 in 10 of all prisoners, wow!”
Pete Boettke recently explained well how militarization is not an ineffective response to various social problems:
The language of disaster and recovery efforts is one of centralization—a military effort is presumed to be required to tackle the urgent problem. But the militarization of compassion is not very effective in achieving improvement. As my colleague Chris Coyne (author of After War and a forthcoming book on humanitarian aid) suggests in his paper “Delusions of Grandeur,” imagine you asked the firemen responding to a raging fire at a corporate building to also coordinate the provision of medical supplies and treatment, oversee the reconstruction of the building, and then rebuild the company’s supply chain after the fire was extinguished and the building rebuilt. This is precisely what happens through the creeping militarization of humanitarian efforts.
Militarization is also not an effective response to violence. But it gets worse! Militarization itself is harmful and socially destructive.
The minarchist interpretation of classical liberalism that an exogenous monopoly on violence is necessary to limit the net amount of violence in society is false. I believe that the domestic practices of mass incarceration and the foreign policies of militarized nation building are providing the empirical proof of this thesis.