The Night Watchman State

Friday, Jul 15, 2011

Very often an economist will say, "It's absolutely clear that government must have a monopoly over [police, courts, and law-making]. At minimum, you gotta have that." You can argue about whether the minimal state is a good idea, but what I've shown is definitely they're wrong. It is definitely true that government doesn't have to have a monopoly over these things. How do we know that government doesn't have to have a monopoly? Because we don't have a monopoly now. Government right now is way beyond the night watchman state, and yet it doesn't actually [monopolize] all the night-watchman functions. There are many aspects of what we think of as being the minimal state that are not actually part of what government does right now... Not only is it possible, it's already here right now.... All these things, we can definitely give more scope to them than they currently have. Which means that, rather than being some some crazy, fringe idea, privatization of more of these things is something that any reasonable person should be willing to consider.

Bryan Caplan, The Night Watchman State, PhD Economist,

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2003 there were approximately 960,000 private security guards employed in the United States — compared to 650,000 U.S. police officers working that year.

The U.S. Contract Security Guard Industry: an Introduction to Services and Firms, Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress, August 13, 2004,