A Modest Proposal

My friend Carol von Haden (whom I credit here for the second time) proposed to me one of those bogglesome ideas that initially provoke disaffection and laughter, but which might make sense. Have you encountered it (before now--jeez, do I need to microprogram everything?), and have you any comments?

In California, at least, she says, 25% drop out of high school, and it then costs $40,000 per annum for their support in prison, the destiny of many of them, since there are ever fewer alternatives for them. Why not pay them, say, $100./week to stay in school? Less crime to fill out their budgets, a better work force, more youngsters going on to college and, again, a better work force, etc.

Carol claims that it would more than pencil out eventually (although most of the benefits other than less crime would be quite eventual).

Carol did not discuss any fine points, in particular: Who would get the stipend--everyone, or only those likely to be swayed (which would reward the bad, usually a bad idea), or what?

So what do youse animadvert? If anything.


  1. I think a better proposal would be to stop enforcing the victimless crime laws that make many of them criminals.

    I'd personally favor permanently shutting down all prisons as well.

  2. Yeah I like Jacob's ideas.

    I think the problem, Wabulon, is that crime wouldn't be affected much. If you divide society into groups that currently receive money on net from the government, versus those who pay money in on net, which do you think is more likely to end up in prison?

    Of course that correlation doesn't equal causation, but I think raising a generation of people who know they are being paid to not commit crimes is pretty patronizing and won't work.

    Also, I think it's a terrible idea to force/bribe people to stay in school. That makes it harder for the other people to learn. This could actually lead to more crime, above and beyond the crime of taking taxpayer money from people who don't agree with this modest proposal.

  3. $40,000 sounds like inefficiency in the penal colonies. I believe they can be turned into profit centers.

    Doesn't that kind of wreck the premise?

  4. Anonymous12:15 PM

    That's it Woody...turn the prisons into profit centers!

    While we are at it, we could make unemployment a crime, and put those freeloaders to work, for under a dollar an hour.

    We already have a higher percentage of our population in prison than any other country in the world. Add a profit motive, and we might get support to ramp up the the percentage even more.

    Maybe we could even solve the California budget shortfall.


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