Monday, January 2, 2012

Roads and privatization

(Russian roads are a form of national defense — footage from WWII)

Oftentimes, I hear people use roads as an example of something the government benevolently creates for us.

But, of course, without the government there would also be roads — privately owned and maintained roads. (And, for instance, most railroads in this country were built by private transportation companies.)

I immediately hear the protest: "We would have to pay for them!"

Well, my friends, we are paying for our roads NOW. And we are paying more than our share. We are paying much of the 1%'s share.

Think about it: who uses roads the most — common people or owners of large businesses? Of course, the latter (for the most part, for transportation of goods across the country through highways, which are the most expensive to maintain). And whose taxes pay for the roads? Does the proportion of your taxes that goes towards the road maintenance equal your proportional usage of the I-90? Or the bridge in San Francisco? I doubt it. I think a rich business owner gets much more profit from the interstate highways than you.

Under privatized road system, rich owners of large companies would pay for the majority of expenses of using the roads (through toll system), and most of the expense for maintenance of the roads would fall on their shoulders.

Furthermore, pricing of tolls would reduce traffic, since more desired roadways would cost more to use. People would be able to make a decision — whether to use a more expensive but less congested roadway, or less expensive but a more congested one. This would spread out the traffic over more roadways and indicate to the people where there is more or less traffic.

People say that under "anarchy" there would be chaos. Well, it's difficult to imagine how much more chaos than can be than the one produced by the government. For instance, I cannot see how things can be much worse than this (pictures of traffic in Moscow).

Plus, if the roads were privately owned, they would be better (and more efficiently) maintained. Because private road owners would be interested in not having a lot of roadblocks (since they would the traffic to flow smoothly), they would choose most sensible times to fix the roads (when there is little traffic). And, obviously, there would be economic pressure on the private road owners, just as on any business owners, to provide good service. While on the civil servants, there is only bureaucratic and political pressure.

For more reading on privatization of the roads, I refer you to Walter Block of Loyola University (and Mises University):
Interview: "The Road to Freedom"
Full version (the book): Privatization of Roads and Highways
Also see this video:


guyinla said...

I guess you mean interstate roads should be built by private people, because local roads should definitely be built by the local population.
Also, it's not necessarily true that rich people use roads more. Remember, rich people generally fly and lower-income people fly less. Moreover, even if rich people do use roads more, they pay way more in taxes. I agree with your conclusion; not your premises.

Certified Ashkenazi said...

I mean all roads should be built privately.

Rich people use roads not just for travel, but mainly for business -- i.e., movement of products and materials to and fro.

You are right that the rich people are taxed more than us; furthermore, they are taxed proportionally more. It would be difficult (for me) to estimate whether or not they are getting taxed in proportion of their road usage. But generally speaking, I agree with you; the statement about us paying for the rich people was a joke; I am surprised people (here or on Facebook) didn't pick up on it earlier.

Anonymous said...

Nice insight, thanks for posting! As long as we have the roads to take us home - related...