More Friedman

While looking over David Friedman’s blog today, I came across this article on “The Economics of War“. It’s an interesting read. Here is another one I haven’t read in ten years or so, Paying for Crime Prevention it winds up being a partial defense of the system we have in America where the government is not liable if a defendent is acquitted at trial. To wit:

The outcome of a criminal case depends, among other things, on decisions made by police and prosecutors. Consider a situation where, at some point in the proceedings, the police begin to suspect that they may have the wrong man. Suspicion is not certainty; they can choose to ignore the evidence that their suspect is innocent or someone else is guilty. They can also choose to do their best to keep such evidence out of sight of the defense. How likely they are to do so depends in part on the cost to them of being proven wrong. Under a legal system in which acquitting the defendant, or dropping charges after he has been imprisoned for some time, results in sizable cash penalties against the police department or its individual officers, the police have a strong incentive to repress their doubts and push for a conviction.

How serious this problem is depends on a variety of factors. If there is a substantial chance that the conviction of an innocent will eventually be discovered and reversed, a police department that suppresses such evidence risks having to pay for years in jail instead of months. If, on the other hand, such a reversal is unlikely, suppressing evidence may be an attractive gamble.

I suppose that is another variant of the Gandhi game, or turning the other cheek as it’s less tactically known.

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