It is fashionable today for politicians to try and combine the coercive power of the state with the creativity and efficiency of our enterprise culture. This chapter points out the obvious about some of the illogical offspring of this misbegotten concept. In the UK today, government builds roads then gets private enterprise to harvest fines from the drivers when they infringe a regulation. The strange practice of wheel clamping those who have parked in a disallowed space, or returned late to the parking meter, is prolonging the offence. It is like making a drunken driver drink another bottle before driving home.
Will it be very long before this mating with free enterprise enables us to purchase four parking fines in advance and get one free, or benefit from 25% discounts at Christmas for retrieving cars towed away from London’s West End?
With the growing privatisation of the prison “service” we now have a growing industry lobbying for more and more reasons to lock us up. Since their introduction to the US, the prison population has risen from half a million to 2 ½ million, fivefold, while crime has stayed pretty constant. And over the past 20 years, the average custodial sentence in the US has increased by 37%.
The coercive “do it or I’ll hit you” approach has never been a successful long-term strategy for businesses, companies or enterprises. Attempting to harness this approach to private enterprise in order to make the state more efficient brings very grave dangers with only an occasional cost-saving benefit.