Should alternatives to publicly funded policing be considered?: Evidence from the development and consolidation of cattlemen's associations in Texas

Date

2016-08

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Abstract

Many economists believe the state is essential for supplying public goods, including policing, because these goods are subject to collective action problems. Therefore, the prevailing theory holds that the state must fund public goods through coercive taxation lest they be underprovided. However, an instance when policing services were provided voluntarily may serve to counter this claim. The study highlights a situation where cattle inspectors were hired by the TSCRA (a private cattlemen’s association) in order to combat cattle theft on the Texas frontier in the late 19th century. It builds on research conducted by Elinor and Vincent Ostrom related to CPR management and polycentricity because it deals with a situation that falls in between the dichotomy of pure public or private provision of a collective good. The study seeks to evaluate the efficiency of TSCRA inspectors compared to government alternatives. Using a modified version of the IAD (Institutional Analysis and Development) framework, an analytic narrative details the creation and development of the TSCRA with a special focus on understanding how and why their private cattle inspectors came about. Based on the comparisons shown, it appears that the TSCRA inspection system was as efficient as state-backed systems within Texas, Wyoming, and Montana. Overall, this calls into question the claim that the state must provide policing and shows that banning private police may preclude efficient, private alternatives from being considered.

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Keywords

Private police, Public goods, Free riding, Collective action, TSCRA, Cattle, Cattle inspectors, Texas

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