From the perspective of us genuine Republicans, the first step in any prison reform, given the clause in the Thirteenth Amendment excepting slavery in the case of punishment for a crime, must be the effective removal of that exception, must be to keep it from being a venue for slavery. Translated into worldly terms, that means that no prisoner should be permitted to labor. For any labor that prisoners perform cannot be of their own volition, and therefore must be, by the very circumstances of their imprisonment, slave labor. It must be slavery. There is no other term for it.

The bill before Congress, the so-called First Step Act, fails to take this essential first step. Perhaps there are some who might concede its ultimate necessity in any decent, republican governance, but doubt its primacy. They are misinformed. There are clear economic consequences of prison slavery which invalidate the stated objective of this bill: reduced recidivism. This exposition will be brief, far shorter than others detailing economic consequences, but it is essential.

First note that, like all slave labor, prisoner labor replaces other labor at lesser expense. In other words, prisoner labor takes jobs away from non-prisoners, away from law-abiding citizens, if we must use that obnoxious term. The lower cost of labor from this replacement then drives down wages throughout the labor market. The depression in wages caused by prisoner labor therefore makes law-abiding less profitable and crime relatively more profitable. The prisoner whose time is up is thus incentivized to crime and, if captured, to recidivism.

Secondly, note that the primary beneficiaries of that slave labor are the private prison companies and the mercantilist companies to whom they farm out that labor. Those companies are major political contributors to the legislators who enact the laws by which people are brought into prison and by which their terms as prisoners are lengthened. This incestuous relationship between the law maker and the prison slavery industry ensures a vested interest in recidivism, however much the politicians may claim otherwise. Nothing is heard from the mercantilists on this account. Probably they are keeping their heads low.

Third, note that the prohibition against prisoner labor does not mean that the prisoners will be idle or bored. The provisions of the proposed bill seem to do just that. Allowing prisoners to further their education is a way for them to use their time without slavery. Restoring mental health is, in and of itself, a worthwhile endeavor, and the bill proposes addiction therapy. Though not mentioned in the bill, penitential reflection is another way, indeed was the prison reform of Mrs. Fry which gave us the term penitentiary. Yet another
way to give prisoners something edifying to do is to allow them time with visitors, especially with family and friends, the people who will form their community once they are released. In these and so many other ways, prisoners can keep themselves busy, without their labor lining the pockets of greedy mercantilists or serving the pretensions of power-hungry politicians.

If the first step is made of abolishing prison slavery, recidivism will be reduced as intended. But if that first step is not made, if we instead have a misstep, then recidivism will continue as it has and the restorative measures will have been in vain. Yet if we stumble here, we should not be distracted from the further steps we should make. Indeed, the complacency over making a rudimentary step, that of defeating the confederation of democracies called the Confederacy, was what gave us the exception clause in the first place.

The second step would be to end the economic slavery of having to work for a living. No matter how profitably a person might have negotiated their wages in the past, their future negotiations will always be under duress unless they have a separate and unconditional income to pay their living expenses. This “provision of the necessities without condition or requirement” is more fully explicated in my “Popular Capitalism”, but for our present purposes it is important to note that, without it, there is a clear incitement to crime.
To give the general public an easier handle on what such an unconditional provision might be in their daily lives, I have been using the tag #1500DollarWeeklyAllowance. This tag is somewhat of a simplification, as are most, but the complexity is in making the proposed program an implementation of the “uniform Rule of Naturalization”. Thus, newborns and new immigrants would each receive, via their guardians or sponsor families, $40 for the week of their arrival. Then after each week of residence up to and including their 365th week, they would receive an additional $4 per week. The amount they would directly receive on their 365th week and each week thereafter is $40 plus $4 times 365, thus $40 plus $1460, thus $1500.

Those who read this, especially those who would dismiss the matter out-of-hand, present accusatory and ill-informed questions at this point of the exposition:

1. What incentive is there for people to earn money if they only get this allowance of $78K a year?

2. Would not an annual expenditure or deficit of $25T cause hyperinflation?

3. To avoid (2), how will you handle the additional $25T of debt each year?

4. Would you not have to cut program X in order to make this work? “X” being some program the reader considers vital.

5. How much are you getting from Y to put forth this plan? “Y” being some individual or group the reader thinks in league with the devil.

6. But this is just Z and so why do you think it will work this time when it has already failed miserably in W? “Z” being some program to which the reader is opposed and “W” being a list of countries where the reader has heard that “Z” was tried and in which it failed miserably exclusively because of “Z”, without any contributing factors.

7. But this is just V, have you heard of V / read this article about V / like to buy a book about V? “V” being some program which the reader is pushing, and which bears a superficial resemblance to the unconditional provision for the sole purpose of discrediting any formulation of the unconditional provision through “experiments” with false metrics and controls. The reader, in this case, is being betrayed by the advocates of “V”, as they already know it is a straw man.

8. But this is just U, which was implemented as T, so why are you re-inventing the wheel? “U” being a formulation of the unconditional provision which was rejected by a previous case of (7) and replaced with another program, “T”, which bears an even more tenuous verisimilitude to “U”.

Responding in order:

1. The allowance is not a limitation. People can still earn as they did before, with the same tax rates as before. The incentives are, if anything, greater, since none of their current wages would be going toward the necessities. Further, the payments are weekly, not annually, making the incentives more finely tuned to conditions week-to-week rather than the current annualized salary decisions. In other words, people can decide to take a job for a week or two based on wages for those weeks, instead of having to consider what their annual wages might be.

2. Once again, the allowance is weekly, so the relevant figure is the roughly $487.5B weekly outlay. The money is indeed created by the expenditure, but the total effect on the money supply is affected by the use to which it is put. I describe this more fully in “The Way Out”, but the breakdown is this:

a. Payment of debts. This reduces the private bank debt money supply with no net change in the total money supply.

b. Uninvested savings. Trapped liquidity, which will probably be higher in the initial stages as people gain confidence in the weekly allowance. Again, no change in the total money supply.

c. Stimulus. New demand generating new economic activity means that the increase in the money supply is matched by a subsequent growth in GDP. Increase in the money supply but with no lasting inflation.

d. Increased bids for existing demand. This is where there is general inflation, but note:

i. Any general inflation will also inflate wages, profits, and other economic activity subject to taxation and other revenue-gathering.

ii. The weekly revenue, by destroying the moneys returned to the Treasury, reduces the money supply from each weekly allowance by
a factor i, where 0 < i < 1. Then r = 1 — i , for which also 0 < r < 1, is the amount of that money supply remaining.

iii. Though i and r vary for each allowance and week, we can use a maximum r, R, to place an upper limit on the total money supply attributable to the allowance as a percentage. We can also roll all of the uses (a)-© into this (d) case for the same purpose.

iv. If W is the weekly outlay in dollars from the #1500DollarWeeklyAllowance, the total money supply attributable to the allowance would be less than W ÷ (1 — R). If we express this in a more accessible way with R ≤ n / (n + 1) for some n, say 4/5 for n = 4, we can see that the total money supply from this unconditional provision is bounded by W ∙ (n + 1). In the stated example, this would be $2.4375T, as an upper bound over all time.

v. There can be no hyperinflation if the total money supply is asymptotically bounded.

3. The questioner confuses deficits with debts. The deficits will be paid with new money, not debts. The money supply will approach, but not reach, a much lower figure, and the debts can be reduced in all of this, using a procedure I discuss in “The Way Out”.

4. No. See “The Way Out”.

5. No. “Y” opposes my plan.

6. No, it is not “Z”. It is a brand-new plan I invented. They have not even heard of it in any of the “W” countries. Besides, the countries in “W” tried democracy, mercantilism and “growth-based initiatives”, and that was what failed miserably, especially democracy.

7. No, it is not “V”. If you read “Popular Capitalism”, you would realize that “V” is not even a provision of the necessities, that wage employment is for many people, and that parroting talking points is a poor substitute for reading books outside of your comfort zone.

8. The “U” in question, the Negative Income Tax was, indeed, a proposal for the unconditional provision of the necessities. However, it was never implemented due to a false equivalence with the “experimental trials” of NIT, the “V” from (7) in this case. The “T” in question, the Earned Income Tax Credit was a cruel mockery of it. The wheel still awaits its invention.

In summary, prisoner labor should be prohibited, as a first step, and the #1500DollarWeeklyAllowance should be implemented, as the second

A scion of the Sherman and Delano families, C. P. Klapper comes from a long history of New England Communist Republicanism.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store