Thursday, March 29, 2012

THEY LEARNED NOTHING AND FORGOT NOTHING. I don't know if you've noticed, but Megan McArdle has taken off to work on some project (my understanding is it will be called The Koch Kookbook; each dish features the meat of an animal capriciously declared "endangered" by some ecofascist regime, and will be road-tested in McArdle's culinary lab). To hold the fort she has enlisted a new crew of Kids from McArdle. What sort of kids are they? True Blue Libertarian! And what do they believe in?
If you're driving through certain West African countries, you'll be stopped every few miles by armed men--often in police uniforms--who will demand payment in exchange for letting you pass.

I have a somewhat similar experience every time I drive from my home in Philadelphia to Washington, DC. As I'm driving up Interstate 95, I'll periodically be stopped by people in uniforms (thankfully not armed) who will demand money in exchange for letting me through.
Oh Jesus. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Tim B. Leeve in the Free Market 4Ever.
Obviously, there are important differences between these cases.
Whoa, big mainstream move.
In Africa, the roadblocks are mostly illegal and the payments are generally described as "bribes." In the United States, the practice is known as "collecting tolls" and is government-sanctioned
Just as so-called humans call health care a "right," and engage in a form of emotional commerce which they are pleased to call "love." Gawd, they're so immature.

Lee eventually tells us that "while I'm generally sympathetic to the idea of privately-managed roads, I've become convinced that the broader vision of 'free-market roads' is a conceptual confusion... the more I think about it, the less sense it makes." Good for him! But despite what could have been a life-changing insight, he can't let go of the dream -- he pores over the evidence, dazed, stricken even at what it might suggest:
A 2004 GAO survey found that four of the five privately-funded toll road projects started or completed in the preceding 15 years included non-compete clauses that restricted the creation of competing freeways nearby.
Capitalists exploiting a privatization scheme to dick the public! Who could have seen that coming? So, what have we learned?
To be clear, this isn't to say libertarians should oppose road privatization.
As I suspected.
The public has a right to freedom of movement along public roads, and this right can't be extinguished by transferring physical control of the road to a private firm. And libertarians should demand that private operators of public roads follow the same basic principles--non-discrimination, tolls not greatly exceeding the cost of building an operating the roads--that we'd apply if the government were operating those roads itself.
Demand! Preferably in a strongly-worded letter to the Chamber of Commerce, or to Reason magazine.

I remember when Mike Royko, disgusted by Roger Ebert's defense of Rupert Murdoch as a Citizen Kane type of mogul, said, "Roger's a nice guy but he thinks everything's a goddamn movie." These kids are even more misguided -- they think everything's an essay by Hayek. Movies at least are fun.

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