The John M. Olin Center

Paper Abstract

1008. J. Mark Ramseyer, Privatizing Police: Japanese Police, the Korean Massacre, and Private Security Firms, 06/2019.

Abstract: Public security is often a non-excludable public good that involves economies of scale. For these obvious reasons, modern democracies provide their residents with basic security services out of the public fisc.

Yet the capacity to protect overlaps with the capacity to prey. As a result, regimes in dysfunctional societies sometimes use the public security apparatus to extract benefits. Sometimes the security services use their resources to extract benefits for themselves.

Public security is also a normal good: the level of security that people demand tends to increase with income. Hence, wealthier citizens often choose to purchase additional levels of security on the market. In democracies, they do this to supplement the security provided through the public police. In dysfunctional societies, they do this in part to protect themselves from the public police.

I illustrate several of these simple principles with examples from Japan: the development of the modern police force, the Korean massacre after the 1923 earthquake, and the development of modern private security firms.

Requests for copies of this paper should be directed to the John M. Olin Center at Harvard Law School