The Economic Calculation Problem Applies to Police

One fundamental reason socialism does not work is the economic calculation problem.

If you want to see what the economic calculation problem looks like in your own life, consider the police. It’s widely imagined that policing is some equally shared service, a fixed quantity of something which everybody has equal access to. This is not the case, police have limited resources and must presently allocate those resources blindly without market signals to follow. Some people have no police within 40 miles of their homes, while some have round the clock police protection of their homes. Currently, the service of policing is socialized, with police revenues generated by force. These revenues are maximized by the enforcement of the laws most commonly broken, which yield the greatest quantity of busts, for the greatest flow of tickets, asset forfeiture, and tax funded budget increases. The service of policing, therefore, is not directed by market signals created by consumer spending.

The police are, in theory, tasked with enforcing laws; all of them. In reality, there are far too many laws for any police department to even KNOW a single percentage of them. They can’t enforce all laws, they can only enforce some laws, which they choose arbitrarily, often based on whatever is easiest to bust the most people for, such as drugs and traffic violations.

Policing is not provided in accordance with demand. If it were, you would see a lot more police resources invested in going after actual crimes that people really want their money going towards protecting them from, such as murder, rape, and robbery. Most murders & robberies go unsolved, most rape kits don’t even get tested, violent crime runs rampant, people are dying every which way, and all the while millions of lives are destroyed – sometimes violently ended – by the enforcement of frivolous laws which abridge personal liberty and the vast majority of people would not voluntarily contribute much, if any, of their own money towards enforcing.

By Jake McCauley