Prison in a Free Society

Empty prison cell Original Filename: 73979720.jpg empty jail cell

This weekend I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine.  We were discussing ways we could possibly improve the socialized law enforcement we have today.  It was a long conversation, we agreed most the time, some things we disagreed on, but we both agreed that privatizing it would be more efficient than the socialized police we have today. We also realized this is a change that isn’t likely to happen in our lifetimes, but fun to talk about anyway.

Without getting into the details of the entire talk, I want to focus on one thing my friend said.  I was saying that I do not believe that people have to have a government to keep peace or enforce laws.  I think it is something the market could handle better than we handle it today.  To most non-libertarians, and even to some libertarians, this is a shocking statement.  So my friend had to give me the “crazy test”.  He said to me, “No matter what system we have, murderers and pedophiles have to be locked up. Do you think murderers and pedophiles should be locked up?”.  I had the feeling that if my answer was anything other than, “yes”, the conversation would essentially end and anything I said after that point would be dismissed as crazy, so of course I replied, “Yes, I think murderers and pedophiles should be locked up, just about everybody in the world thinks that.”

It’s true, I do think murderers and pedophiles should probably be isolated from society, but the answer I gave wasn’t sitting right with me, so I thought it over on the way home.  I figured out that my honest answer would have been, “I want murderers and pedophiles to stop murdering and molesting people.”  The best possible way to do this might be to lock them in a cage.  I don’t think too many people want to live in a society with really bad people roaming the streets.  But what if there was another way?  What if the market made the isolate themselves from society?  Robert Murphy has some interesting ideas on prisons in a free society, check out the video above.  If there would be a better way than locking them in a cage forever, I’d certainly listen.