Friday, May 23, 2008

Allow private companies to enforce the law

We are told that monopolies are a bad thing in this country and yet we have one in this country. It is called Law Enforcement. Why is law enforcement allowed to be a monopoly when private companies could do the job just as well, if not better?

Monopolies go against the public interest. If there isn’t another company to compete with then there is no incentive to provide a good service and we don’t seem to get one in this country.

According to Revision Guru there are number of reasons why monopolies are against the public interest:

1. Higher price and lower output

We of course don’t pay the police directly but we do pay for the police in taxes. Taxes in this country are high. There is no doubt about it. Can people say the service that they get is of high quality? Only the criminals can say that because they live a life of luxury in prison if they are ever caught.

2. Productively inefficient

We see the inefficiencies by the fact that police spend many hours per day just filling in paperwork. That is inefficient.

3. High costs

Like all monopolies there isn’t any incentive to cut costs and the justice system just keeps gobbling our money.

There are probably a lot more disadvantages but I thought I’d name just those for now.

The case for competition

According to Tutor 2 U there are a number of benefits that can be taken from increased competition:

1. Lower prices for consumers

Some may think that this doesn’t apply because businesses will want to make a profit with this and they still can. They will be able to when criminals get sent to prison and they will be punished because of the reason that the companies will want to make a profit. There would probably be no luxuries in that prison so that they could keep costs to a minimum.

2. Improvements to the quality of service for consumers

There would be improvements in the quality of the service. Why would there be? That’s easy. If you weren’t satisfied with the police that attempted to solve the crime that was committed against you then you could phone up another police force the next time a crime was committed against you meaning that the first business would lose customers.

3. A faster pace of invention and innovation

This may not apply here but I think it might. The police would come up with new ways to catch criminals. This could be in a more cheap way or just to be able to do it.

How would it work?

People wanting to become police officers would be trained at a college or university. Those passing their tests could become police officers and join whichever company that was recruiting police officers.

It would be highly unlikely that prisons would become overcrowded as companies would be relying on prisoners for their profit so they would make more prisons to cope with demand. If there was less crime then they could sell off those prisons so people can make them into other things.

The companies could also send prisoners to their prisons abroad if they wanted to. Ever heard of outsourcing to china? They could make more profit by having prisoners over there.

Each company would of course have to have their own phone number. Maybe allow them to have 3-4 digits and have the present number for the police (999 in the UK) for all police forces. If you phone that it will go to the first available police officer regardless of the company.

After a while you would see adverts on television for these new companies and the better companies would survive while the other ones would go bankrupt.


If a criminal was sent to prison the company would be paid the full costs of the investigation. They would be given legal aid to hire their own prosecution team but it would not go above a certain amount.

They would only gain a profit when the criminal was sent to prison. According to Civitas it costs £38,753 per year to imprison a criminal so that’s what the companies would be paid at first. We can assume that the companies would reduce their costs. After 5 years we could give them £153 less per prisoner. Assuming that we have 90,000 prisoners in our jails (which I think we do) we would save just over £13 million per year after 5 years.

The problems

I can think of a few problems with the policy that may need addressing.

1. The companies might rely on a high crime rate for their profit

Solution: If crime goes down in an area give the companies that operate in that area access to a pot of money. They could get a percentage of it depending on what percentage of criminals they dealt with

2. Companies might not try to rehabilitate criminals

Solution: Once a prisoner has been released give the company a specified amount of money if that criminal has not committed another crime ten years later.

3. Companies might become petty and arrest people for trivial crimes like littering

Solution: Allow juries to also decide the sentence

Possible consequence of solution: Judges won’t be needed as much? Get rid of judges and replace them with ‘referees’ (basically admin people who say “over ruled” or sustained”) with less qualifications and give them a pay cut or just give the judges a pay cut?

Who should support this policy?

There are a number of them and here goes:

1. Libertarians

According to the Libertarian Party of America they believe that ‘each person has the right to offer goods and services to others on the free market.’

The private police force would be offering their service on the free market would they not? Therefore this policy should be a libertarian principle.

2. Free marketers

If you truly believe in a free market then you should support peoples right to decide where their tax money goes if there is an alternative to the government.

3. The police

At present the police are not allowed to take industrial action because they are far too important because they are the only ones who provide this valuable service. However, if other companies could take up the slack if a company of employees went on strike it wouldn’t be that noticeable. Criminals would still be arrested, just by another company.

4. Consumer groups

Surely consumer groups should want an alternative to a monopoly so they get a better service.

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