Crime and the Libertarian
To their credit, the Libertarians have been extraordinarily vocal in the prison industrial complex issue. Liberty, after all, is hardly consistent with locking up 1% of society. But I worry that their solution to the problem is incomplete.
- Don’t lock people up for stupid things like minor drug offenses. Correlary: decriminalize things that shouldn’t be crimes, eliminate mandatory minimum sentences, and generally try to be less of a police state.
- Stop doing constitutionally dubious searches. And while your at it, maybe stop militarizing local police forces. And see if they can be a bit less racist. See also “be less of a police state.”
As partial solutions go, these are both fine. I think the disconnect comes with the question of how to address things like theft, embezzlement, and burglary, and other crimes that Libertarians don’t like. I’m not talking about the massive-scale, shock-the-nation crimes. I mean the crime blotter stuff. I mean the geographically-concentrated crimes we connect with concentrated populations in high poverty.
Sequestration may going to cause the elimination of 185,000. That’s 185,000 families who could have reasonably stable housing that will suddenly be out of luck. With an average household size of about 2.5, 185,000 families is roughly the entire population of Wyoming. Some may be able to find housing elsewhere—but they’ll bump somebody else. The shelters are full. Sequestration is going to create a lot of really desperate people.
Connecting these dots isn’t nearly as simple as saying that crime is something ignorant like poor people routinely commit crime because they are desperate. There are a few more dots to connect. A loss of vouchers causes displacement. Displacement destabilizes communities. Etc. The bottom line is that stable housing, a stable job, and reasonably stable finances can make you the kind of boring person that doesn’t live a life of crime.
All the glorious benefits of a free market require broad participation in the market. That means people need sufficient resources to be full participants. Doesn’t a desire for a flourishing fee market require ensuring as many people as possible can participate? I get that subsidies cause market distortion. But doesn’t homelessness and extreme poverty cause a greater distortion? Bonnie? Jeff?