No one gets elected by calling for less law and order. People vote out of fear, a tendency candidates happily exploit—conservative candidates, especially, the same ones who complain that government spends too much.
Here’s something I wish every voter would think about every election, and every time a new criminal law is proposed: criminal justice is expensive. It costs far more than people realize. The costs aren’t clear to voters because the money goes to many different agencies.
Exhibit A is this week’s story by Mick Dumke and Ben Joravsky on the price to taxpayers of our marijuana prohibition. Mick and Ben trace the weedy roots of weed enforcement costs, from the police station to the courthouse to the jail. They figure Cook County taxpayers spend $78 million “to bust and jail a bunch of black guys for reefer.” They can say “black guys,” because they’ve shown in a previous story that the ratio of black to white arrests for pot possession in Chicago is 15 to 1.