Prison and Privatization

Last night, we read an article called “Using the Market for Social Development”, by Milton Friedman. Friedman explains partial versus total privatization. Partial privatization is when a government owns part of it’s nation’s economy.1 Total privatization is equivalent to a free market, where the government is not involved in the economy.1 Some countries, such as China, have a mostly total decontrol economy. Countries like the United States have a partial decontrol. Friedman expands upon how markets that are not or partially privatized may transition into a privatized economy. Gradualism is a slower transition into a privatized economy, and shock treatment is a more abrupt change.1 Friedman has a strong opinion that states are better suited with privatized economies.

I read an article in CBS titled “One winner under Trump: The Private Prison Industry”. Trump’s emphasis on the arrest of illegal immigrants has increased the demand for prisons. This article explains that many states are switching from public to private prisons in order to reduce costs and build more of these facilities to accommodate.2 However, private prisons may result in more security and safety issues than public prisons because they are less monitored.

How does privatizing the prison industry maximize profit and reflect a liberal economy?

Because the private prisons are not regulated by the government, this means that they do not have to meet certain conditional requirements. Some of these requirements included in public prisons may be involved with food condition or size. However, private prisons are not restricted, and therefore are allowed to perform the bare minimum to function. This, in turn, will increase profits. However, by valuing capital first, these facilities may become unsafe to prisoners. This privatization reflects a liberal political economy because it is not restricted by the government.


1 Milton Friedman, “Using the Market for Social Development” Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings (2017).

2 Aimee Picchi, “One Winner Under Trump: The Private Prison Industry” CBS News (February 21, 2018)

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