Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Free society can survive just fine

Free society can survive just fine

(My Clovis News Journal column for October 24, 2014)

"But who will build the roads?"

Not only does this question come up anytime someone discusses eliminating government altogether; it comes up when anyone discusses cutting it back- as an example of "essential" minimal government.

What is it about roads that they can't exist without government?

Governments don't build roads. They hire contractors to do the work. So "who would build the roads?" The same people who build them now.

Governments don't even pay those contractors- they coercively extract, from the people, the money paid to the contractors. So, "Who would pay?" The same people who pay now: those who benefit from the road.

Bureaucracy makes everything more expensive, and stifles or prevents innovation, which decreases quality. Roads freed of government would have an automatic advantage in both areas.

When individuals profit or otherwise benefit from a road touching their property, the act of "eminent domain" loses justification.

People who object to privately owned roads complain about paying tolls, falsely believing the roads are "free" now, and believing private roads would be too expensive. You get what you pay for, but government always comes at a premium. Tolls are not the only way roads might be financed. Businesses eager for your patronage could chip in to ensure good roads lead you to their doors.

Not only that, but individuals and companies who owned roads would not be able to duck responsibility for poor road conditions. They could be held personally responsible if they allowed ice or a pothole to damage your car, or a drunk driver to crash into you.

That's right- privately owned roads could still forbid drunk driving. However, they probably couldn't get away with sobriety checkpoints. Their customers might flock to a competitor who didn't hire highwaymen to waylay and molest travelers without cause. People who believe checkpoints increase safety could still choose that route.

I also wonder why people assume a free society would continue to need roads as we know them. Pavement only matters because our cars bounce alone, dependent upon the surface conditions. The flying cars we were promised half a century ago can't seem to get past the various red tape traps erected by governments. The same red tape prevents innovation which could even make future wheeled cars lose the need for a paved ribbon beneath them.

Private vehicles have been a boon for liberty, and governments have- almost from the start- sought ways to infringe this liberty by increasing the cost, inconvenience, and by limiting the allowable benefits. It's time to end this war on travel.

If something is necessary and wanted, a free society will provide it. Better, cheaper, and in more variety than you can possibly imagine.


  1. Good point about the road builders, I didn't even realize that.

    We didn't get to where we are overnight, and if we do become a liberty-based society, it won't happen overnight, either. The upcoming elections give me some level of hope, but I realize that you don't vote. That's your prerogative, but voting is how we use our voices to speak to power, and I think your voice has a lot of value.

    1. Do you think that "power" is actually hearing your individual "voice" through your vote? Or, might it be drowned out by all the others to the point you'd do more good speaking out and making a fuss?