A lot has happened since my last post. We are seeing the economic impact from Katrina and Rita. The commissioners court approved the RFP for the prison. For some strange reason the congruence of all these events started me thinking about Bastiats essay "That which is seen and that which is not seen." There is a danger that the rebuilding of the hurricane ravaged areas is turning into an extreme case of his broken window fallacy. The evidence of dreams lost or put on hold is everywhere. Still, there are so called economic reporters out there touting how good this will be for the economy. It is easy to see all the jobs needed for rebuilding and construction in the affected areas. We must remember that we can't see the projects that weren't started, the schooling delayed, the new businesses that will never be opened as a result. Billions will be spent to try and get peoples lives back on track. Just don't believe any of the self-serving commentators that try to spin this into an economic good thing. You might even want to suggest that next time they take a class in economics, they actually show up, stay awake and pay attention.
The hurricane connection is pretty obvious, but what about the prison? What's the connection? It will be easy to see the prison. It will be easy to see the guards and the bus loads of prisoners when they arrive. The money paid to the county will be seen in the annual budget. There a number of things, though, that will not be seen. Study after study after study say that prisons in towns make it unlikely for them to see significant other industries moving in. We have the highest incarceration rate in the world. We don't see the real impact of our failing criminal justice system. When you take 2 million people out of the work force, it is hard to see the total impact. We also don't see that the European Union, Australia, and Japan all have incarceration rates at 1/5th of ours or lower, and low crime rates without mandatory sentencing and Faith Based rehabilitation programs. We don't see that China, even with its notorious prison industry, still has a lower prisoner population and incarceration rate than we do. Prisons, at the present time, are an unfortunately necessary thing, a necessary evil. Never be deceived into believing that having a prison is ever a truly good thing.
When we are looking around us and listening to the news and seeing all the rosy predictions, we need to remember what is not seen, as sometimes that is the most important.