Biden’s Private Prisons Executive Order: A Solution in Search of a Problem?

[Our incarceration system needs reform: how about reforming it by increasing private prisons instead?]

Yesterday Pres. Biden issued an Executive Order on Reforming Our Incarceration System to Eliminate the Use of Privately Operated Criminal Detention Facilities. The operative bit is simple enough: “The Attorney General shall not renew Department of Justice contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities, as consistent with applicable law.”


I agree that the incarceration system needs reform. (And not just the incarceration system itself: I would also look at the mass of criminal laws, including drug laws; and the investigation, prosecution, and sentencing processes. But O.K., let’s also look at the incarceration system.) But well-intentioned prison reformers too often blame private prisons for problems that plague incarceration generally. For some, this may relate to a broader skepticism of markets; for some, this may relate to a view that profitmaking (while possibly appropriate elsewhere) is inappropriate for prisons. I believe that, on the contrary, the problems of incarceration aren’t particularly attributable to private prisons, and aren’t generally greater in private prisons than elsewhere; the moral objections are insubstantial; and perhaps those of us who want to reform prisons might consider increasing the use of private prisons…

Source: [Sasha Volokh] Biden’s Private Prisons Executive Order: A Solution in Search of a Problem?

What I believe now, part 2: strong imperfection

What I mean by “strong imperfection” is that human beings and their societal arrangements are very far from perfect. We are nowhere close to utopia, and we cannot see how to get there.

A major reason for this is lack of knowledge. We know today much more than we knew one hundred years ago. It seems reasonable to expect that in another hundred years, today’s level of knowledge will seem low. If we look at all of the past beliefs that today seem wrong-headed, we should be hesitant to commit to what we believe now. On this topic of what we do not know, check out the econtalk podcast with Russ Roberts and Michael Blastland.

The implications of this are:

1. We should be humble about predicting the consequences of public policies. In an economics textbook, a single “market imperfection” is shown in isolation, with the implicit assumption that everything else is perfect. Under those assumptions, the right tax, subsidy, or regulation can reliably produce improvement.

Most economists are familiar with the “theory of the second best,” which points out that trying to fix one problem, when there are other problems or constraints, can make things worse. This is a useful concept, but it only scratches the surface of strong imperfection.

2. We should welcome trial-and-error learning. The economic and social progress we have made is largely due to trial and error, not central planning. Because of strong imperfection, we know that many flaws and problems still exist. It is likely that solutions will come from trial and error going forward, just as in the past.

3. We should try to limit the number of personal flaws that we see as inexcusable. Both as a society and as individuals we should try to extend tolerance and forgiveness. Given our current state, I do not think we can do away with prisons, but I think we should be aiming in the direction of limiting their use. I also think that we should be reducing the number of “firing offenses” in the work place, not adding to them. As individuals, we should aim to reduce the set of excuses for cutting people off as friends.

4. We should avoid the “nirvana fallacy,” which involves comparing the current state to a perfect state. The most realistic change is likely to be from an imperfect current state to another imperfect state.

5. We should resist becoming Manichean. The motives of opponents are usually not as bad as we are inclined to make them out to be.

Source: What I believe now, part 2: strong imperfection

The left pushes back on the Stephanie Mohr pardon

(Paul Mirengoff) President Trump brightened my Christmas season when he pardoned former police officer Stephanie Mohr. Now, the Washington Post and its leftist sources have brightened it even more by complaining about the pardon.

Their unhappiness makes me happy. It also tends to confirm the wisdom of Trump’s decision.


According to the facts as stated by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in her case, Mohr released the dog after her training officer sought and obtained consent from the officer in charge of the scene. The training officer was acquitted. The officer in charge took a guilty plea in exchange for his testimony against Mohr and was sentenced to 15 months in prison. (Mohr’s testimony was that she released the dog because the suspect ignored repeated instructions to follow police orders. If so, she shouldn’t have been convicted of any crime.)

Thus, far from bearing sole responsibility for the dog bite, Mohr doesn’t even bear primary responsibility under the only version of the facts that renders her culpable. Clearly, then, her long sentence was a miscarriage of justice.

I’m glad President Trump did what he could to mitigate the injustice. If that makes the Post and its anti-police allies unhappy, all the better.

Source: The left pushes back on the Stephanie Mohr pardon

Police Defunding, Like Communism, Can’t Fail

“I guess you can use a snappy slogan, like ‘defund the police.’ But, you know, you lost a big audience the minute you say it,” Barack Obama complained. Obama was pretending that there had never been a serious push to get rid of the police, and after spending eight years mainstreaming black nationalism and the pro-crime politics of police defunding was trying to pretend it was just an edgy slogan calling for “criminal justice reform”.

Source: Police Defunding, Like Communism, Can’t Fail

Some ideas are so stupid only intellectuals believe them.

— George Orwell

The anti-prison movement will be a disaster . . . for criminals

Leftists, having placed pro-criminal prosecutors across America, are now doing the same with judges. Criminals will not like what’s coming. At Power Line , Paul Mirengoff took note of the fact that George Soros, having managed to place leftist prosecutors throughout America, none of whom have the slightest interest in prosecuting crime, has now moved on to placing leftist judges in courtrooms, just in case a prosecutor was unable to keep a criminal out of court: In Maryland, it appears from the Washington Post’s account that most, if not all, of the victorious outsiders are pro-criminal defendant and sympathetic to the BLM critique of the judicial system.


What leftists don’t realize is that what they’re doing is also a disaster for criminals. As many have said, our modern criminal justice system was set up not just to protect ordinary people from criminals but to protect criminals from ordinary people. Before we had a criminal justice system, complete with police, courtrooms, and prisons, we had vigilantism at the front end, because there were no police, and extreme tortures at the back end of the system, because there were no prisons.

When police arrest bad guys, one of the things they are doing is protecting them from angry people in the community. These people are not just the direct victims but the community at large. People who are trying to live normal lives cannot tolerate rampant crime. If there is no government enforcement, they will become the enforcers. Vigilantes invariably administer rough justice, and it’s usually fatal. The person they grab (and they’re not above grabbing the wrong person), will be beaten to death, hanged, shot, set on fire, or whatever else the mob finds most expedient. We read stories about these things about Latin America and Africa. If leftists keep destroying the front end of our criminal justice system — the police — we’re going to read about it here too.

Source: The anti-prison movement will be a disaster . . . for criminals

Review: The Kyle Rittenhouse Incident… A documentary

Images from Kyle Rittenhouse documentary , screen shots, of Alex Blaine/Joshua Ziminski spliced, cropped and scaled by Dean Weingarten The documentary is one hour and nine minutes long. It was easy to watch and understand. Video is interspersed with stills, explanations, and slow motion examination of the events on 25 August, 2020.

Source: Review: The Kyle Rittenhouse Incident… A documentary

Two Bidens and a Toobin: Could Trump have scripted these last two weeks any better?

We are in the third act of an epic morality play, and the Bidens and their ally Toobin stand exposed as corrupt, sexually perverse people. Starting with the 2016 election, Scott Adams said that Donald Trump is the ultimate showman, and that he understands how to create a narrative.


What I hadn’t seen coming down the pike was Hunter Biden’s computer. Indeed, how could anyone have imagined that Hunter Biden would drunkenly abandon his computer at a little repair store; that the owner, after taking legal possession, would investigate the contents; that Deep State agencies would rebuff the owner’s efforts to turn over the contents to the government; that the FBI, having ignored evidence of Joe Biden’s corruption, would eventually send one of its child sexual exploitation experts to check things out; or that The New York Post, Rudy Giuliani, and Steve Bannon, would end up being the ones taking the story public.

Source: Two Bidens and a Toobin: Could Trump have scripted these last two weeks any better?


But I was inspired to think about a Pigouvian tax on a societal institution where that is clearly not the case: Higher Education. As we have been assured by all the leading authorities, 1 in 5 women who attend college is raped. We thus need to tax higher education institutions at a level sufficient to compensate the 20% of their female students who are victimized. Taxes laid on gross revenues would probably be passed on to students, so we’ll need to tax the real stakeholders in universities who — since there are no shareholders — are faculty and staff. Assume an average damage of $1 million for a rape — surely no one would dare suggest a lower figure — multiply that by 20% of the female student body size, and apply that tax to faculty and staff salaries. That may not generate enough revenue, but we could also tax gross sports revenues — where taxes can’t easily be passed on –to make up the difference.