Power & Market

Reimagining Public Safety – The Case for Privatizing Security

Security Badge

Since the conclusion of World War II, each biennial session of Congress has ushered in a staggering 4-6 million words of additional legislation. However, amidst this flood of legal text, the State’s focus on expanding regulations and enforcing compliance has overshadowed its fundamental obligation: provision of security—the cornerstone of what progressives call the social contract.

This neglect is starkly evident in the steady decline of the national homicide clearance rate over the past fifty years. While governmental efforts have been fervently directed towards the complexities of tax codes and corporate statutes, commitment to solving violent crime has dwindled.

Sources: (https://www.federalregister.gov/reader-aids/understanding-the-federal-register/federal-register-statistics, https://www.murderdata.org/p/reported-homicide-clearance-rate-1980.html)

The provided chart illustrates an inverse correlation between the length of the Code of Federal Regulations and the homicide clearance percentage. As the State has tightened regulations, it has faltered in prosecuting perpetrators of violent crime. Unfortunately, the low clearance rate for homicides is not an isolated statistic; clearance rates for other crimes are even less impressive.

Source: (https://www.statista.com/statistics/194213/crime-clearance-rate-by-type-in-the-us/)

This trend unfolds despite unprecedented resources available to law enforcement, including advanced equipment, extensive training, and ample funding. With near-infinite amounts of data from the internet and social media, as well as sophisticated tools like facial recognition technology, the modern Police State possesses unparalleled surveillance capabilities. They also carry advanced weaponry that previous despots could only dream of.

However, despite these resources, law enforcement’s ability or willingness to combat violent crime is regressing. Nevertheless, they still demonstrate remarkable efficiency in pursuing minor offenses such as tax evasion, speeding, and seatbelt violations.

Thirty years ago, columnist Samuel T. Francis coined this dichotomy “anarcho-tyranny”—the government oppression against the law-abiding and simultaneous inability or unwillingness to carry out basic public duties. In a just legal system, severity of punishment is in accordance with the severity of the crime, but under anarcho-tyranny, the rule of law is flipped on its head—the noncompliant are pursued with greater tenacity than the violent.

Incentivized Injustice

This perversion of justice stems from an economic distortion resulting from the incentives of government security. Like all economic actors, government police forces are driven to maximize revenue streams, including asset forfeiture, tickets, and tax dollars. However, the clearance of homicide cases rarely yields high revenue, as these cases are often more complex and result in costly penalties such as prison time or the death penalty. Conversely, police departments can generate revenue through asset forfeiture in drug cases or issuing tickets for traffic violations—both of which contribute to the State’s income.

The State’s incentive is to focus on the crimes that serve them as assets rather than pursue the ones that burden them with liabilities. Moreover, unresolved violent crimes can serve as justification for increased funding from their primary revenue source—taxes. Subsequently, law enforcement channels this funding towards pursuing high-yield, nonviolent offenses, perpetuating a feedback loop. This inherent flaw underscores why public policing inevitably falls short—the economic incentives are misaligned.

The Case for Privatizing Security

The ultimate remedy for this misalignment is the privatization of security. Political changes will never resolve it, as they fail to address the underlying economic factors driving the issue. Simply replacing figures like the police chief, governor, or president will not bring about lasting change, as their successors will encounter the same incentives. As long as law enforcement is incentivized to prioritize minor offenses over violent crimes, they will do exactly that.

If the security industry is privatized, funding directly hinges on the provider’s ability to protect their clientele. Thus, security providers will be deeply invested in the safety of their clients. Rather than capitalizing on political loopholes, security providers will prioritize the prevention and clearance of violent crime, recognizing this as their consumers’ paramount concern. Failure to adequately safeguard customers or address security incidents effectively risks losing clientele to competitors with superior solutions. Under market competition, providers must meet the needs of their customer base. A privatized security market will compel providers to maintain rigorous standards, fostering innovation and efficiency while enhancing safety for all.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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