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Self-labeled "Objectivists" and Private Prisons

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An example of the kind of thing that can happen when prisoners are regarded as an economic asset is the "Kids For Cash Scandal" that occurred in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. A private real estate developer built a juvenile detention facility and then bribed two judges to fill the facility. There was an existing Luzerne County facility for juveniles but the judges sent their cases to the private facility regardless, and even applied detention sentences in cases where detention was not warranted at all. Hundreds of juvenile convictions have had to be reviewed and overturned.

The existing legislative ambiguity over how to handle juvenile offenders is what makes a market in private juvenile detention facilities possible. Markets in force are a bad idea.

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Markets in force are a bad idea.

Wow that is a good counter example, and it’s good to see that the miscreants are all in jail. What I take from it, however, is not simply that, as you put it “markets in force” are a bad idea, but that as Lord Acton might have said, force corrupts, and absolute discretion to initiate force corrupts absolutely. In other words, not just “markets in force”, but force itself is corrupting. Now, it’s nearly unthinkable today that a prison might face closure for lack of tenants, but if/when that day comes, the same situation could just as readily arise with bureaucrats facing the loss of their paychecks (along with whatever dubious perks) bribing judges in this way to keep themselves so gainfully employed.

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"Human nature is perfectable--in individual cases, by the person themselves. Not for the population at-large and not via some kind of outside imposition."

Wow -- that is quite a statement. Maybe you are tuned into whole groups of people that I, for whatever reason, am not, but I have not seen ANY indication that human nature has perfected itself, either in an individual or in groups. I've been around for a long, long time, but have yet to meet any perfect individual or group. Nor do I see any indication that "enlightened" individuals such as yourself are in any better shape: You have struggled with your very significant weight over the years: have you been able to perfect yourself? Are you now a size ten? If not, why not? I'm sure it's not for want of desire........

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What for? You'll just say that "no, that would happen the same way in both a private and government facility, and they could both be held accountable the same way".

An example of the kind of thing that can happen when prisoners are regarded as an economic asset is the "Kids For Cash Scandal" that occurred in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. A private real estate developer built a juvenile detention facility and then bribed two judges to fill the facility. There was an existing Luzerne County facility for juveniles but the judges sent their cases to the private facility regardless, and even applied detention sentences in cases where detention was not warranted at all. Hundreds of juvenile convictions have had to be reviewed and overturned.

The existing legislative ambiguity over how to handle juvenile offenders is what makes a market in private juvenile detention facilities possible. Markets in force are a bad idea.

Wow that is a good counter example, and it’s good to see that the miscreants are all in jail. What I take from it, however, is not simply that, as you put it “markets in force” are a bad idea, but that as Lord Acton might have said, force corrupts, and absolute discretion to initiate force corrupts absolutely. In other words, not just “markets in force”, but force itself is corrupting. Now, it’s nearly unthinkable today that a prison might face closure for lack of tenants, but if/when that day comes, the same situation could just as readily arise with bureaucrats facing the loss of their paychecks (along with whatever dubious perks) bribing judges in this way to keep themselves so gainfully employed.

I_told_you_so.jpg

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No, it doesn't, as exemplified by the millions of honest judges, cops and soldiers across the world.

Wow, what a way to debunk old Lord Acton! I wonder what percentage of absolute monarchs (aka dictators) have to be evil before you would concede that Acton was right. I can name some genuinely good dictators, can you? Cincinnatus, the Emperor Julian and Frederick II (both Hohenstaufen and Hohenzollern) come to mind. What percentage of judges, cops and soldiers need to be corrupted before we can say mmm, discretion to initiate force, there’s something dangerous about that? You did, I hope, note that in Grames’s case judges accepted bribes?

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What I take from it, however, is not simply that, as you put it “markets in force” are a bad idea, but that as Lord Acton might have said, force corrupts, and absolute discretion to initiate force corrupts absolutely. In other words, not just “markets in force”, but force itself is corrupting.

There is no reason to speculate on what he might have said given we know what he did say.

The exact quote from Lord Acton is "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." I think your claim that force itself is corrupting has to be demonstrated. I'm not buying this. For one thing, there is no distinction being made between the initiation of force and force in defense of or retaliation against the initiators.

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There is no reason to speculate on what he might have said given we know what he did say.

The exact quote from Lord Acton is "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

Ay yi yi, how pedantic! I’m not saying Lord Acton said that, I’m saying it, and I’m noting that it is derived from what he said, both in form and content. “Might have said”, “what a way to debunk”, why do you suppose I wrote that way?

I think your claim that force itself is corrupting has to be demonstrated. I'm not buying this.

I said discretion to initiate force, these are carefully chosen words. Now, how to demonstrate it? I suppose I could start by referring you to the infamous Stanford prison experiment, but we really ought to agree on where the goalposts are before the kick. What kind of proof are you looking for? On Objectivist boards often an Ayn Rand quote or two suffices. Or do you want sociological and psychological data, links to studies, maybe an essay on history across multiple cultures…the explanations proper for a proverbial man from Mars vs. someone already familiar with Objectivism are quite different.

For one thing, there is no distinction being made between the initiation of force and force in defense of or retaliation against the initiators.

Of course not, and isn’t that the point? There’s supposed to be a process based on that distinction, and whether a prison is managed by a private firm or strictly by government employees is an independent issue. A judge does not (or should not) have discretion to initiate force, and there are checks in place such as juries and the appeals process. In the case Grames brought up they did have such discretion without the checks (perversely, tax court is similar to juvenile court in this way), and even then the threat of jail if discovered ought to have dissuaded them. It didn’t , so now they serve as examples to others. Unfortunately the victims can’t get their childhoods back. The main question, or critique, at the heart of Grames’s example is whether the profit motive on the part of the prison operator corrupts the system. It brings in those big business bucks and all the badness that from there flows. I say that’s not a factor that’s unique to privately run prisons, and BTW nor is it the only corrupting factor at work in the justice system. There’s some particularly nasty examples from my home town involving Janet Reno going after supposed child molesting juveniles, cases which raised her profile before she was appointed US Attorney General, but which were nothing but witch hunts that wrecked innocent lives. Government employees are rarely saints, and checks and balances sometimes break down, this shouldn't be news to anyone here.

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