Friday, December 03, 2010

ANNALS OF LIBERTARIANISM. Over at Reason they're talking about doing away with public roads. I'm not shitting you.

"There's certainly no reason that private firms couldn't run all the toll roads in the United States," says Professor Bruce Benson of Florida State. Back in colonial times we had lots of private roads, it seems, and if you're the sort of guy who wears a tricorner and yells about the death of liberty, here's a new opportunity to emulate the lifestyle of the Founders.

There are even today some private roads; their owners "can limit access to them if they want to… they can tell somebody to leave if they don't like them being there." (Comes the revolution, if you're thrown off an existing road because the owner doesn't like SUVs, longhairs, or whatever, you can go build your own. Freedom!) Whereas gummint roads are "for the most part free access roads. That means anyone with a car can get on them, or a truck. They don't have to pay the cost that they impose on other people or on the road itself."

Why have the American People tolerated this outrageous interstate highway system for so long? Because, the Professor suggests, they are unaware that they pay for this socialist scheme; the gummint has deceived them by funding such boondoggles indirectly through gasoline taxes, which citizens presumably only pay because they think it's going to something useful, and consider the highways a gift from God. But free-drivers are ever a problem, and thus the people abuse the roads by driving on them overmuch, leading to damage which we certainly can't expect the gummint to repair. That's the people's money.

I'd imagine that, just as New York subway ridership went up when the Metrocard let riders move more freely through the system for a fixed price, highway use would go down when every Tom, Dick, and Exxon owned his or her or its piece of the road. But the Professor is more optimistic. He believes "there won't be tolls everywhere" because when the new age comes there will be "groups and firms who want people to come to their location" and will thus build free roads. The example of such groups/firms he offers is the casino owners of Las Vegas, who may get together and build a superhighway so people can get to their gaming tables, the present gummint highways having crumbled or been destroyed in the Great Awakening. (Given that the owners would retain their right to refuse service, prospective drivers will probably have to undergo a credit check.)

The route would be an efficient, straight shot from Los Angeles, and not subject to the vagaries of politics, under which "very powerful Senators" currently make highways go through their dinky towns to grub votes. The new barons of transportation will not be thus tempted, because they won't need votes. FREEDOM!

I don't see how we can take the Tea Party seriously until they get behind this 100%.

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