Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Here's a Worthwhile Libertarian Way to Spend Tax Dollars

Doug Kern's piece, A Real Story of Two Americas, at Tech Central Station is worth a look. Some key points:
One America is safe. One America is not.

Government statistics confirm that the average victim of crime tends to be young (under 24), black, male, single, urban, and poor. Crime is predominantly a problem for the struggling and marginalized....

Poverty can be resolved through individual effort; crime cannot....For the crimes that afflict the poor, our society has only one approved solution: stop being poor, so you can move somewhere safe. Some solution.

Worse, crime corrodes the very ability of the poor to improve their own situation....The poor need investment opportunities more than anyone else -- but who wants to build anything in communities that aren't safe at night?...

Whatever the long-term solution to crime may be, the short-term solutions are simple, obvious, and expensive. We need more: more prosecutors, more public defenders, more judges, more investigators, and more local jail space, to ensure that more criminals learn early and often that their crimes will be justly punished....

In recent years, federal legislation has subsidized the hiring of more police officers. That's terrific, but what can the police accomplish if the bad guys get off with a slap on the wrist and a suspended sentence, once arrested and convicted? Rare is the jurisdiction in which misdemeanor property theft or damage results in jail time -- and yet such small-scale crimes are the very offenses that make life intolerable for America's poorest citizens. Too often, jail is not an option for misdemeanor-level offenses, as local jails overflow with probation violators and felons awaiting trial. The low-income localities that suffer most greatly from small-scale crimes often lack the resources to punish the criminals who torment them. Those places simply need more money to find, prosecute, and incarcerate criminals.

We should give it to them.
Of course, there are federalism issues and questions about where the money would come from. But a way should be found to make it happen. Protecting the public from crime is the libertarian thing to do, and what Kern proposes would have the added benefit of helping people build productive, welfare-free lives.