In previous times, and perhaps still today in some locals, prison labor worked on public roads and were not paid. So, the argument goes, there is nothing new about using prisoners for work. This rationale overlooks that previously prisoners worked for the public that paid for their incarceration. Today they work for private firms to make profits for private firms.

What we are experiencing is the return of feudalism. Here’s how the private prison scheme works: The state captures people and incarcerates them in private prisons. The state uses taxpayers’ money to pay private companies to run the prisons. The private prison leases the labor of the prisoners to private companies who then sell it to corporations and government entities for the minimum wage.


This absolute exploitation of labor has a legal appearance.

But it is not different from feudal lords enserfing freemen and appropriating their labor.

About 96% of the incarcerated did not get a trial. They were forced to self-incriminate by agreeing to a “plea bargain” in order to avoid harsher punishment. The remaining 4%, if they got a trial, did not get a fair trial, because a fair trial interferes with maximum conviction rates, and the careers of police, prosecutors, and judges come before justice.

Today a prison sentence is best understood as enserfment, one more total than in the feudal era.

At the beginning of the feudal period there was some reciprocity. Freemen tilling their soil had no protection against maurading raiders—Vikings, Saracens, Magyars—and entered the service of a lord who could provide the protection of a fortress and armored knights. Reciprocity ended with the raids,

leaving former freemen enserfed and owing one-third of their labor to the lord.

Today’s enserfed owe all of their labor to the private prison.


Essentially, privatizations of public functions are a way to turn tax payments into profits for favored private interests.

The claim that privatization reduces cost is false. By building in layers of private profits, privatization raises costs.

In most cases, privatizations are ways of favoring those with inside access.

Privatizations, in addition to creating income streams for private interests, also create private wealth by transferring public assets into private hands at prices substantially below their value. T

his was certainly the case in the British and French privatizations of state companies and the British postal service. The privatizations forced on Greece by the EU created wealth for northern Europeans at the expense of the Greek population.

In a word, privatizations are a method of looting.

As opportunities for honest profit-making decline, looting comes into its own.

Expect more of it.





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