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

See all articles by Daniel Rothschild

Daniel Rothschild

George Mason University, Department of Economics, Students

Walter E. Block

Loyola University New Orleans - Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business

Date Written: April 1, 2016

Abstract

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

Rothschild, Daniel and Block, Walter E., Don't Steal; The Government Hates Competition: The Problem with Civil Asset Forfeiture (April 1, 2016). The Journal of Private Enterprise, Vol. 31(1), p. 45-56, 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2959039

Daniel Rothschild (Contact Author)

George Mason University, Department of Economics, Students ( email )

Fairfax, VA
United States

Walter E. Block

Loyola University New Orleans - Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business ( email )

6363 St. Charles Avenue
Box 15, Miller 321
New Orleans, LA 70118
United States
(504) 864-7944 (Phone)
(504) 864-7970 (Fax)

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