Tuesday, December 2, 2014


The farce of political kayfabe is this: the audience (constituents) expect a good show from the performers (the legislature). This means that the punters get restive when they think the Congress or the state houses or the city council are "doing nothing." In this case, "doing nothing" means passing no new statutes curtailing the set of things that citizens are granted by the permission of the assembly to do.

The tragedy arising from this farce is that the burden for enforcement falls on the police force. Tasked with maintaining public rest amid a blizzard of statutes, they quite naturally and through no fault of their own, economize on scarce resources. Sometimes this means rewarding collars, or instituting quotas or whatever. And like anyone else, individual officers find the simplest, lowest cost methods to chase their incentives.

This is sometimes to the detriment of the community.

Enter wearable cameras. The idea goes that by shining a light on bad police behavior, cops will stop harassing harmless passersby to focus attention on genuine crime.

I think we'd all agree that addressing the underlying institutional problems of police being charged with enforcing gargantuan reams of petty, meddling statutes would do a lot more to align the organizational interests of the police with the overall interests of peaceful society, but instead, much of the chatter lately has been on this curious little cosmetic reform. Why all the attention? Is it because uniform cameras are novel, or is it because repealing the enormous pile of rubbish legislation is not in the choice set? Is it something else?

If the sovereign and the constituency is to have something approaching a euvoluntary social contract, should not much of the effort of the legislature be set to the task of achieving the correct terms of that contract? Should not citizens petition the government for redress of these deep institutional grievances?

Can't we all just get along euvoluntarily?

1 comment:

  1. I heard somewhere that marginalist economics is concerned with how to make the pie bigger..


Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?