A market for the protection of schools 12

A few days ago, a nineteen year old psychopath shot and killed seventeen people at the school in Florida that he had been expelled from. He entered the school, set off a fire alarm, and shot randomly into crowd streaming out of the classrooms.

How to prevent such a crime?

The Left’s solutions are not solutions at all:

Pass a law making it harder to obtain guns? Criminals by definition do not obey laws.

Confiscate all privately owned automatic and semiautomatic guns and shotguns? A gift to criminals.

Defy or change the second amendment to the constitution so no citizen who is not in the armed forces or the police is allowed to carry a gun? A help to would-be tyrants, most notably and threateningly those of the “community organizing” kind.

What then?

Let’s start with the proposition that central planning is always a bad idea.

What non-governmental action might work?

Jeff Deist writes (in part) at the website of the (libertarian) von Mises Institute:

There are no top-down political solutions available from Washington. Gun control doesn’t actually prevent crime, but it does provide the political class and media with another diversionary bitter cultural debate. Americans are deeply divided on guns, just as they are deeply divided on abortion and climate change and scores of other issues. …

Contrary to popular belief, the Second Amendment neither “federalized” gun laws nor created a right to private ownership of firearms. It simply enshrined the notion that “the people” need to be armed to defend themselves potentially against the state itself. …

The libertarian response to mass shootings, in particular school shootings, is to allow teachers and other personnel to carry weapons on campus. In fact, the broader libertarian program is to have most people armed, or at least potentially armed, to create a safer (not to mention more polite) society. If we cannot snap our fingers and produce crime-free cities and neighborhoods where nobody needs to carry a gun, then at least we allow everyone the ability to dissuade or defend against criminal shooters.

This is all well and good, but ignores the market impulse to outsource services to specialists. This is why neighborhoods hire private security patrols, and why celebrities hire professional bodyguards. Not everyone wants to carry a gun or train themselves in gun proficiency. And there is the issue of scale, where individuals might find themselves arrayed against organized criminal gangs.

Rather than endlessly debate the fraught political process of crafting illiberal gun control laws, we ought to think about private-market solutions that focus on controlling crime.We should think in terms of market economics, where private property and correct incentives give us what government and laws cannot: a mechanism to determine possible harms and the cost of protecting against or preventing those harms. People want safe neighborhoods and schools, which is just another way to say there is a market for them.

Generally speaking, the US legal system imposes premises liability on property owners whose negligence (or willful conduct) results in someone getting injured on that property. This arose conceptually through common law courts and juries applying general negligence concepts.

We accord different degrees of legal responsibility (“duty”) to landowners based on the identity of the injured party: a trespasser, for example, has less recourse to sue for injury than a business invitee (i.e., a customer). The law considers whether the injured party had a legitimate purpose being there, and in some cases whether they contributed to their injury through their own negligence.

The duty to make one’s property safe from a particular harm relates to, and in a sense hinges on, the foreseeability of that harm. Leaving spilled milk in a grocery aisle too long could well subject the owner to paying damages for a shopper who suffers a fall — a fall that was quite predictable and clearly caused by the wet floor. But intentional criminal acts by a third party … generally absolve the property owner of liability. After all, no shooter ever entered the grocery before, so why must the owner guard against this most unlikely event?

But should a public school district have a higher duty to keep students safe than the grocer has for shoppers? Arguably yes, in that society values children’s lives, well-being, and innocence perhaps more than adults’. And we force children into school attendance via truancy laws and meddling protective services agencies.

Furthermore, are school shootings now foreseeable even though they remain exceedingly rare? Does the media attention and notoriety given to such shootings change the calculus? At some point, perhaps today, school shootings could become foreseeable in the eyes of a jury.

We can’t necessarily draw conclusions here, but the question is whether the owners of public schools — generally municipal or county school districts — should be immune from lawsuits for school shootings simply because they are political subdivisions of states? Should sovereign immunity apply to them, or should they be forced to consider security measures just as private owners must? After all, it seems clear that a mass shooting at a prestigious private school would result in litigation.

It seems clear that imposing tort liability on school owners and operators, even government owners, would both improve security and provide a ready source of compensation for the families of victims. Private security agencies, which have a market reputation to develop or protect, almost certainly would provide more efficient service than government police — for the simple reason that more crime punishes their bottom line, while it often creates calls for increased police budgets.

To put it another way: Private security businesses must maintain a good record of keeping their clients safe, or they lose business and lose money; whereas government agencies such as the police can blame their failures on insufficient funding, so the more they fail the more money they get.

And private security models like Disneyland benefit from wanting to create a peaceful and happy environment, where security forces have every incentive not to escalate situations or incur liability.

Furthermore, private insurance models could help schools rationally allocate funds relative to the risks involved. Since school shootings are rare, premiums to cover such an event should be constrained. But other lesser types of crime in schools could be insured against as well, helping administrators better understand what they’re up against. And insurance companies would bend over backward to offer advice on avoiding shootings, since they would bear the cost of liability payments.

Admittedly, public schools using taxpayer funds to hire private security and pay insurance premiums muddies the waters. But at least it moves all of the parties involved — school districts, administrators, teachers, security providers, and parents — toward a market-based approach to safer schools. Tort liability, however imperfectly administered by government courts, offers one way to align the interests of parents and school owners in preventing further horrific events.

To sum up the message: Let school administrations choose to buy protection, the best the market can provide, at a price a competitive market puts on it.


(Hat-tip to Don L for the link to the Jeff Deist article)

Posted under Law, liberty, United States by Jillian Becker on Thursday, February 22, 2018

Tagged with ,

This post has 12 comments.

  • ncgh

    What keeps coming up is ‘how did we get here’?

    When I was in high school, over 50 years ago, there were no locked doors, security system, no video cameras, no guards, no police, squabbles between students were quickly and easily handled by the teachers, (and yet guns were MUCH easier to get than now). Spoke recently to a student at that same school, and they’re spending millions, much on ‘security’.

    How has our culture become so toxic?

    • The Left took a “long march through the institutions” and triumphed. It is a movement of destruction and it owns the culture.

  • Don L

    Additionally. It seems the SCOTUS has already adjudicated that police have absolutely NO duty to (despite the oft waved banner) protect or serve — they exist solely law enforcement. IMO, prima facia idiotic and another failed SCOTUS ruling. The Founders’ intent was to secure unalienable rights which includes right to life – PROTECT IT FROM VIOLENCE BY OTHERS. So, again, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”.

  • Don L

    “… for the simple reason that more crime punishes their bottom line, while it often creates calls for increased police budgets.”

    Deisets gets right to the point of the critical difference between the private free-market versus government bureaucracy motivations. Free-market solutions are rewarded with profit ONLY IF they are satisfying the consumer. The government bureau/bureaucrat seeks to satisfy a political master with the goal of bureau expansion; there is little fear of the doors closing.

    In a debate between Dana Loesch, a conseravtive radio host and spokesperson for the NRA, and a police official, the official was speaking against privatization and/or arming adults on school grounds. His department can handle it and other notions would be dangerous; we just need more officers, he clambered. He is a bureaucrat protecting his turf at the expense of the school’s security.

    Further, at whatever level, local-to-federal, government produces nothing. All government revenue is acquired by taking private property under threat of force; or, see what happens when you don’t pay your taxes. The Austrian economist Hans Herman Hoppe, in his little 58 page booklet “The Privatization of Defense” (It’s FREE) https://mises.org/library/private-production-defense , provides the rational and logical argument as to why these same ‘police’ forces are not a good choice for securing the private property from which they derive their income … no?

    Nothing government does is done well or succeeds because all things are completed through the bureaucracy system. And, when it comes to the ignorance-born political social programs, given the lack of any end-user/beneficiary input or feedback, the end results are often ultimately tragic – generations dependent when independence was the goal – the bureaus live on and expand. Signs that guns are not allowed is the politically-correct bureaucratic answer.

    This is sorta dry but it’s short and informative: “Bureaucracy” by Ludwig von Mises: (It’s Free) https://mises.org/library/bureaucracy

    • Right-on! Absolutely. Thank you, Don L. Also for the links.

    • liz

      “We just need more officers” – yes, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away!

      • Don L

        Some CT schools have armed; leftist opposition caved exactly for the reason you point out … you can’t leave a killer active for a minute.

  • liz

    Good ideas. I think a combination of things is needed: hiring private security as this article suggests, allowing qualified school employees to conceal and carry, and returning to common sense mental health laws that keep lunatics where they belong – in asylums, rather than out among the general population. Privatizing schools would also help with not only that problem but much more – like freeing children from being force-fed leftist propaganda.

    • I heartily agree with all you say. Thanks, liz!

    • Jeanne

      Yes, yes, yes! There is no reason why all this and more cannot be done to protect any of us who have a reason to fear a nut-job or a temporally insane person wielding a gun. We have county deputies that are in our public schools and a supposedly good system of keeping guns out of the schools, but a year of so ago, every county high school was under threat from a call-in indicating that a sniper was outside each one and waiting to kill. That was a real eye-opener! There were none at either school, but everything got locked down and the county understood what a disaster this could have been; officers spread thin, kids terrified, parents trying to get their kids out and being denied entrance to the school grounds, door to door searches for snipers. And…all this during school let out time, when the buses were all there!

      And…I am not really sure that anything dramatic was done to change what was already in place. I think I will try to find out.

      If students are truly terrified, then we need to address the safety issues at each school, where a difference can be made. There will be no difference if new gun laws and restrictions are the only things done….excepting, if Congress is willing to be politically incorrect and insist that America takes mental illness seriously by allowing the truly dangerous mentally ill to be treated as such and follow that up with mega-funding for treatment and care. I know that is a tricky thing to do.

      School shootings are rare, but they could be made non-existent…if that is what the parents, kids and Leftist protesters truly want.

      • Yes. Remember when, because of some Leftist theorist, all the lunatics were pushed out of mental hospitals “into the community”? ” As if,” wrote Theodore Dalrymple, “there really were such a thing waiting to take them into its warm embrace.” So they live a little while on the streets and then die on the streets. And the homicidal maniacs get visited by social workers. Or even the police. And are cheerfully left to their own evil devices.

        • liz

          Another problem, apparently, is that the Broward county schools and sheriffs department were in cahoots to ignore criminal activity by students so as to make their record look good on paper.
          Also they are (disgustingly) big supporters of the local radical, terrorist supporting Muslims. Dont know if that has any bearing on the shooting, but there’s definitely alot wrong with that picture.