Re: Didn't need no welfare state

From: Michael S. Lorrey (
Date: Fri Apr 28 2000 - 07:47:52 MDT wrote:

> One of the fundamental premises of Bentham's theory was that the standard of
> life in the poor houses should be below that of the lowest-paid workers in
> the general economy, to produce an incentive to work. That standard was so
> low that the poor houses became hellish prison camps. Fortunately, attacks
> against them on humanitarian and constitutional grounds soon swept them away.
> The failure of the Benthamite poor houses counts as one of the earliest
> failures of centralized technocratic social engineering. (See "Cities in
> Civilization", Sir Peter Hall, pp. 675-83)

Thanks for the cite Greg. However, prisoners today are paid about $0.20 per hour,
far below minimum wage, and prisons haven't been 'swept away'. Now, this figure
does bode ill for the electricity generation scheme. Power costs between $0.05
and $0.15/kWh, depending on where you live. The typical bike generator operated
by a human can generate something like 200 watts, or 0.2 kW, for an electricity
cost (if prisoners are to be compensated for this work) of $1.00 per kWh, far
above market rates (not counting amortization costs of the generating equipment).
Now, if the purpose of the bikes is to power amenities for the prisoners that
require electricity, like TV's, stereos, etc it does put a premium on the value
of use of amenities. Of course we pay for the food they need to keep biking, so
we pay for it in the end. However the potential for using this technique to make
the opportunity cost of using TV's, stereos, and workout equipment much higher
than the cost for a prisoner to attend school does have its attractions.

Mike Lorrey

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