Don't Steal; The Government Hates Competition: The Problem with Civil Asset Forfeiture
The Journal of Private Enterprise, Vol. 31(1), p. 45-56, 2016
12 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2017 Last revised: 29 Apr 2017
Date Written: April 1, 2016
Governments originally meant for civil asset forfeiture laws to take the profit out of crime and show that crime literally does not pay. Since governments keep the seized assets for themselves, however, these laws lead to perverse incentives. Instead of police using resources to fight crime that has actual victims, police go after drug buyers to find assets to seize to increase the police budget. This paper attempts to show that police are ordinary, rational people who attempt to maximize their welfare. Police unions lobby to block regulations that limit forfeiture laws; seized assets and drug arrests have gone up while drug usage has not. Instead of trying to reduce crime, the police become the criminals by taking honest people’s belongings. This paper also shows the effect of forfeiture on drug prices and how law enforcement has no incentive to reduce arrests for victimless crimes.
Keywords: Theft, Government, Competition, Civil Asset Forfeiture
JEL Classification: H0, H1, H10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation