November 25, 2022
A reader recently sent me an email pointing out that many ex-convicts commit new crimes with the intent of being sent back to prison. They actually feel more comfortable in prison than they do in the outside world.
This phenomenon shouldn't surprise us. In prison, the state takes care of prisoners and, by and large, keeps them safe. It provides their food, healthcare, and clothing. In some prisons, prisoners are even given a paying job. Much of the time, prisoners are free to lie around, relaxing in their cells or watching television. Sometimes prisoners are even provided a formal education. And the best part is that all of this is free.
In other words, with prison the state provides you with security. In the minds of some convicts, that's a lot better than freedom. When the state casts convicts out of prison, they become responsible for themselves and their well-being. That's not easy. They need money to buy food, housing, a car, and other things. That means finding and keeping a job. Moreover, outside prison they are faced with an array of choices on a daily basis, which contributes to their anxiety. Better to trade liberty for security.
The reason that this phenomenon shouldn't surprise us is that this is no different from what the American people have done with their adoption of a welfare-warfare state way of life. They have traded their liberty for security - or at least what they are convinced is security.
The purpose of government in a welfare state is to take care of the citizenry, not only by providing them with government doles, but also by restricting their range of choices, so that they don't have to experience excess anxiety.
That's what Social Security and Medicare are all about. The government takes care of people when they reach older age. They don't have to worry about starving to death or dying in the street from some illness, which is what government officials have convinced people would happen in the absence of these two big socialist programs.
It's also what public schooling is all about - to provide the education of young people, thereby relieving families of the responsibility of making educational decisions for their children.
It's what education grants and loans are all about - to help young people get a college education.
There is the FDIC, to ensure that people don't lose their money in the event of a bank failure.
Public housing provides low-cost housing for the poor. Food stamps ensure that the poor don't go hungry. Medicaid ensures that the poor are able to get healthcare.
Farm subsidies help out needy farmers. Corporate bailouts help out needy corporations.
Taking care of people is what drug laws are for. These laws ensure that people will be punished if they possess, ingest, or distribute drugs that have not been approved by the government. That keeps people healthy. If someone gets caught breaking the rules, he is sent to his room, which is located in a state or federal penitentiary.
Immigration controls. They protect us from immigrant invaders.
Trade wars and trade restrictions. They protect us from foreigners who would dump cheap products in our laps.
And then there is the massive national-security establishment. The Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA keep us safe from the terrorists, the drug dealers, the illegal immigrants, the Muslims, the communists, and all those foreign nations that are hell-bent on invading the United States and conquering our country.
Moreover, the military provides vast amounts of military welfare for Americans all across the country. Think of all of the cities and towns that are dependent on military bases and military installations. Supposedly, they would dry up and die without all that military welfare. And don't forget all those weapons manufacturers who existence necessarily depends on feeding at the public trough.
Why should it surprise anyone that some convicts readily trade liberty for security? Isn't that what the American people have done with their adoption of the welfare-warfare state way of life?
Reprinted with permission from The Future of Freedom Foundation.