Month: July 2011

Private games

It’s been in fashion for a while to make fun of the government’s ability to get things done. Milton Friedman, for example, once said that “the government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem.” And according to Ayn Rand and other Tea Party philosophers, the basic philosophy has been that government is generally terrible at getting things done, and that private enterprise is the solution to any problem. This chestnut has been repeated so often that most of us believe it now at some instinctual level. But few people actually know what happens when government does outsource some basic functions. Let’s take a look, and why not start with jails?   Jailing people is usually the prerogative of the state, but over the years several groups (like Corrections Corporation of America) have sprung up, building jails and offering to house inmates at a fraction of the cost of public jails (because it’s private and therefore more efficient, see?). There are now over 260 of these private jails in the US. The organizations that have built these jails have provided compelling arguments to the towns to convince them to outsource their jailing needs to private corporations. Industry studies like this one, for example, argue that private jails save money ($35/day  per inmate for private jail, $42/day for public ones, thanks to the magic of private enterprise),...

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How to start a war (part 1):

The game Civilization, by Sid Meir, is one of the most successful video games of all times. Not only does it have a cool soundtrack, but it also simulates the growth of civilization, science, politics and art on a gigantic scale. One of the choices that you have when you play Civilization is what kind of a leader you want to be – a despot that controls his people tightly, a communist head of the Party, or a democratic-elected president. Your choice has massive consequences: a tyrant, for example, can easily force his people to pay taxes or go...

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