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Volume 6, Issue 44: November 1, 2004

  1. Privatizing California's Prisons
  2. Economic Sanctions Flawed by Design, Eland Argues
  3. The Absurdity of Identity Politics

1) Privatizing California's Prisons

California's prison system houses the same number of inmates as Texas' system -- about 300,000 prisoners -- but California taxpayers dole out about twice as much for each prisoner -- about $30,000 per year. Long in the making, this costly and inefficient mess has brought the California prison system to the brink of federal receivership. If Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is to make good on his pledge to reform the prisons, he should consider a large role for outsourcing the construction and management of correctional facilities to the private sector, according to Alexander Tabarrok, research director at the Independent Institute and editor of CHANGING THE GUARD: Private Prisons and the Control of Crime.

"Cost savings of 15 to 25 percent on construction and 10 to 15 percent on management are common [for private prisons]," writes Tabarrok in a recent op-ed for the PASADENA STAR-NEWS. "These are modest but significant cost savings in a $5.7 billion state system that continues to grow more expensive every year."

The evidence even indicates that competition from private prisons would help hold down the costs of public prisons: "From 1999 through 2001, states without any private prisons saw per-prisoner costs increase by 18.9 percent," writes Tabarrok, "but in states where the public prisons competed with private prisons, cost increases were much lower, only 8.1 percent."

But wouldn't a private system mean lower quality? That hasn't been Great Britain's recent experience with private prisons. Britain's prisons agency concluded that private prisons "are the most progressive in the country at controlling bullying, health care, and suicide prevention," writes Tabarrok.

"Schwarzenegger should encourage the building of some private prisons as well as privatize some public prisons. Private prisons will reduce costs, not only at their own facilities, but at public prisons as well: Pressured by real competition, public prisons will be forced to cut the fat or risk losing state support. At the same time that costs are reduced, prison privatization will lay the foundation for a more open political system -- one in which a single special-interest group cannot dominate what should be matters of public policy," Tabarrok concludes.

See "Private Prisons Have Public Benefits," by Alexander Tabarrok (PASADENA STAR-NEWS, 10/23/04)

Also see, "California Prisons and Corrections: The Benefits from Privatization," by David J. Theroux

To see what reviewers have said about CHANGING THE GUARD: Private Prisons and the Control of Crime, edited by Alexander Tabarrok, see

For more information and to purchase a copy of CHANGING THE GUARD, see

For information about TO SERVE AND PROTECT: Privatization and Community in Criminal Justice, by Bruce L. Benson, see


2) Economic Sanctions Flawed by Design, Eland Argues

Ivan Eland's assessment of economic sanctions are mentioned in an editorial published by the ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER and distributed to newspapers nationwide through Knight-Ridder:

"The infamous United Nations Oil for Food program is getting some well-deserved, increasingly skeptical attention as a result of congressional hearings and the report from CIA weapons inspector Charles Duelfer's Iraq Survey Group," the editorial begins. "Every aspect of this apparently far-reaching and profoundly corrupt program deserves to be exposed. But it should be remembered that it was developed in response to an economic sanctions regime that was predictably ineffective and inexcusable in itself.

"Before the 1991 Persian Gulf War, international economic sanctions were imposed on Iraq, largely at the behest of the United States, through the United Nations. Not surprisingly, these sanctions failed to induce Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait.

"Economic sanctions, as Dr. Ivan Eland, director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at Oakland's Independent Institute, points out in his new book, 'The Empire Has No Clothes,' almost never achieve their purported goal of influencing a reprehensible regime to stop doing bad things with coercion short of war. Instead, sanctions generally punish the people who are already victims of the regime in question (see Cuba since 1962) while giving the ruler an opportunity to blame all the people's problems on the nasty sanctions imposed by (usually) the 'satanic' United States. Sometimes sanctions even reinforce the power of corrupt rulers."

See "U.N.'s Oil for Food Program Is Utterly Corrupt" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 10/11/04), at
. (Free registration required.)

Also see, "American Exceptionalism" by Ivan Eland (10/26/04) at

Spanish translation:

To purchase THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES, by Ivan Eland, see

Center on Peace & Liberty


3) The Absurdity of Identity Politics

The decline of individualism in American political life has coincided with the rise of "identity politics": the notion that one's vote is pretty much -- and should be -- determined by one's race, ethnicity or gender. But on both descriptive and normative grounds, "identity politics" gets it wrong, according to Wendy McElroy, research fellow at the Independent Institute and editor of LIBERTY FOR WOMEN: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-first Century.

"Looking at just one election issue -- abortion -- there is no consensus about women who seem to be split equally into pro-choice and pro-life camps," writes McElroy, in an op-ed that lambastes the absurd slogans of radical gender feminists. Women, she argues, perceive their interests in as many different ways as do men -- though both sexes have fundamentally similar interests.

"Only if you advocate group rights and reject individual ones does it make sense to cry out for sexual solidarity in voting," writes McElroy. "Ironically, such a call reverses the political trend that secured the vote to women in the first place. Namely, the demand for inclusion in human rights. The demand by women to have their rights equally recognized so they were no longer in a separate legal category 'with lunatics, idiots and criminals.'"

See "Individual Rights vs. Identity Politics," by Wendy McElroy (10/6/04)

For reviews of LIBERTY FOR WOMEN: Freedom and Feminism in the Twenty-first Century, edited by Wendy McElroy, see

For more information and to purchase a copy of LIBERTY FOR WOMEN, see


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless