Uncle’s Roads…

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When you’re a Libertarian, you get challenged a lot to conjure what things would be like absent Uncle’s interventions.roads image

For example, roads.

The contra argument – against privately built and managed roads – always presumes that things as they are, including particularly the existing network of government-built roads, is the only way things ever could be. How would you ever get to work or anywhere else if roads were privately owned? You’d have no choice but to use the road in front of your house! How would it be maintained – and paid for – absent Uncle?

What they always miss – and seem unable to imagine – is what might have been. Uncle eminent domained the right-of-ways, seized other resources and built the roads.

Development followed.

But those roads and that development were – are – artificial. Government-grown. It doesn’t invalidate the soundness and viability of a privately-built, privately-owned alternative any more than (as in my state, Virginia) the government having a legal monopoly on the sale of hard liquor means that absent that monopoly, it would have been impossible for people to efficiently and freely buy and sell hard liquor among themselves.Dulles 1962

What sort of road network  (and attendant natural development patterns) might we have had if Uncle hadn’t superimposed his grid on us?

We will never know.

We certainly would not have had the artificial development (and attendant traffic problems) arising from Uncle’s building roads for demand that doesn’t yet exist to places not many people are interested in traveling to.

I can give you an example of this from my own childhood.

Back in the 1960s, Uncle decided he wanted a new airport out in the then-wilderness of Loudoun County, Virginia – far outside the then not-yet-built DC Beltway. The new airport – Dulles International – would be serviced by its very own road, which Uncle eminent-domained and tax-funded into existence.

There was no demand for this road (or the airport, for that matter). This did not deter Uncle. He would manufacture demand.

Various “deals” were cut and “incentives” provided to developers, who developed the surrounding land. Bear in mind that all of this was artificial – that is, prompted not by market demand but by the flow of Uncle’s (that is, taxpayers’) money.

Erratic, unnatural development – sprawl – followed.sprawl

And with it, the horrific traffic bottlenecks that the DC ‘burbs are infamous for. The roads built became inadequate to handle the volume of traffic. Because they’d been built before there was market demand, and designed with projections of demand that turned out to be… wrong.

Uncle never gets the blame for this. He ought to. “Sprawl” and “gridlock” are problems resulting from a disconnect between supply and demand – the interruptions only Uncle can cause.

If market signals had been operative, a road would not get been until sufficient demand to warrant its building had arisen and then it would get been built (and priced) in accordance with that demand. The current commonplace of almost-empty and frequently, pristine, roads in some places – and horribly over-crowded (and in terrible disrepair) roads in other areas – would be extremely rare in a privatized scenario.

Privately built roads would necessarily be more efficient because private capital tends not be spent on things for which there is no or insufficient demand. Uncle’s roads, in contrast, are built because Uncle demands then; that is, on political whim – those whims backed by the open-ended resources of the captive taxpayer.

But how would privately roads be funded? Wouldn’t the cost be very high? These are the other contras presented by those who disbelieve in the practical viability of privately owned and operated roads.because Uncle

The answer, of course, is that no one really knows how they’d be funded. Just as no one really knows how our grid might have looked if Uncle hadn’t superimposed his grid on everything first. Perhaps by tolls or some other form of user fee.

What’s relevant is that there would be choice.

And there would not be coercion.

The opposites of these two things characterize anything that Uncle – the state – does.

As things are, we have little choice but to use – and pay for – Uncle’s roads. There is no realistic option, but not because there couldn’t be. It merely requires that Uncle get out of the road business, his monopoly unplugged.

Roads, after all, are of value to most people. And why would roads be the exception to the rule that people pay – willingly, without being coerced – for the things they genuinely do value? The form that payment might take is immaterial. It could be pay-as-you go via tolls or some other way. The point is, the way would be found and it would of necessity have to be agreeable to both parties, the road owner and the road user- because neither could force the other to agree to the transaction.

Just as in any other free economic transaction.

Why would would this principle not apply to roads?

The assumption seems to be that owners of private roads would charge outrageous fees. But this is as improbable as any other private concern lacking the ability to force people to pay (Uncle’s thing) charging obnoxious prices and remaining in business. A car company, as a for-instance, cannot charge whatever it feels like charging for its cars. It can only charge what buyers are willing to pay for the cars.

Before insurance became mandatory, costs were lower because people did not have to buy insurance. If the cost was too high, they were free to say no.

Take away coercion, make the transaction a voluntary one, and prices cannot go higher than what the market will bear. Put another way, things are priced according to what they are worth – as defined by people’s willingness to freely part with money for them.

How could anyone take issue with that?

I think the worship of government roads – and the seemingly visceral opposition to privately-owned roads – has its source waters in a couple of things.CC BY-NC-ND Bruno Monginouxwww.photo-paysage.comwww.landscape-photo.net

First, it’s what people are used to. They cannot imagine an alternative.

Just as in the collectivist societies of Europe, people are used to the government being in monopoly control of their medical care and pretty much everything else, too. They see what they have – and cannot see what they might have had. The prisoner is grateful for his slice of stale bread; does not consider that fresh bread might be available outside the prison.

Second, they think it’s the better deal. More bluntly, they see it as the free lunch.

The cost of government roads is largely hidden. Few people know exactly how much they are taxed to support them because the taxes are carefully hidden from them.

It easy to take Uncle’s network of roads as a veritable freebie – since (for the most part) you are not directly dunned. You can drive on one of Uncle’s roads whenever you like and no one seems to be reaching into your pocket. Motor fuels taxes, like FICA withholding, are very cleverly insinuated into the price of gas. People would be more aware of – and object more – to what they are actually paying for Uncle’s roads if they had to pay the taxes as an add-on (like sales taxes) whenever they bought gasoline.

Most people also do not take into account the random taxation-by-ticket for various manufactured “offenses,” either. Nor the cost of Uncle-mandated insurance. A private road-owner might (and likely would) offer as an economic incentive the absence of any requirement that you “buckle up for safety” and permit you to drive at whatever speed you felt comfortable driving (as in Germany, on the Autobahn) without fear of being harassed and dunned by a goon in a funny outfit. He might also not require you to have insurance – or at least, not a pay money to a mafia, as now. Perhaps, all that would be required is that you agree to be responsible for any harm you cause – and demonstrate that you have the ability to pay for “x” amount in that event.Bastiat

The possibilities – the potential savings – are almost limitless.

Meanwhile, the cost of government roads is ultimately measured in terms of what Bastiat called the “things unseen.” The grid and patterns of development that might have been.

More efficient – and lower cost.

At minimum, free of coercion – and monopolistic control.

How preferable would that be to Uncle’s roads, which are made possible only by forcibly seizing people’s property (to obtain the right of ways) and then leaving us no choice, really, about using – and paying – for them?

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44 COMMENTS

    • I agree PtB. I download podcasts from different content producers covering various topics which I later listen to as I drive. One of the programs I listen to is the School Sucks Podcast. Brett Veinotte is a former school teacher and personal tutor that started out as a liberal democrat and gradually became an anarchist. The show covers many different topics besides the fact that schools suck such as the Trivium, Stoicism, Taoism, Conspiracy Theories, Alternative History, Divergent Thinking, Creativity, and so much more.

      • WordPress is forcing me to break up my post into pieces due to a false spam alarm. Pt 2:
        I am not a fan of Rap music, but awhile back I heard of a Rap song that pointed out all of the critically important things government schools do not teach children, and the useless things that do get taught to them. The name of the song is Don’t Stay in School, which can be found on Youtube, and which I cannot provide a link thanks to WordPress. Lets see if I can link the lyrics

  1. It appears everyone is overlooking the fact that a huge portion of the review generated by fuel taxes is in turn spent on a minority of the population who contributed little or nothing to the fund.

    We pay for walking trails, bike trails, and public mass transit for sure and we’re also likely supporting Amtrak too but I’d need to look that one up. One thing is for sure we’d likely have much better roads to travel if our tax dollars were doled out and spent exclusively on roads, highways, and bridges.

    • “a huge portion of the revenue generated by fuel taxes is in turn spent on a minority”
      This would also apply to HOV lanes. Here in the People’s Republic of Montgomery County, I-270 comes off the DC Belchway headed NW as 6 lanes. It gradually decreases, but even when it is down to 3, 1 is still HOV only. Not until it drops down to 2 lanes does the HOV go away. Yet that dedicated lane is often only about 50% of capacity, even during rush hour. (Actually only in force during rush hour.) And that is HOV-2. Even the gunvermin realized they could not justify HOV-3 w/o causing a revolt.
      It is social engineering, pure and simple. There are exceptions the to 2 passenger rule, motorcycles being one that makes some sense, or would if the whole HOV concept made any sense. The other, frequently observed, is pheroes travelling unaccompanied in their official vehicles. Can’t allow them to be inconvenienced, of course. They might be late for the next fresh batch at Krispy Kremes.

  2. I wanted to chime in on this. First let me preface by saying that I agree that the market is the most efficient method for determining how to properly allocated capital for the production of goods and services. This would also include roads. I don’t disagree with this at all. However, I think that we can all agree that not all roads can be monetized. Highways used to transport goods and for commuting/travel can be effectively monetized. However, I doubt local streets and secondary roads can be monetized. An exception to local streets would be new developments where the developer will provide paved streets. The market driver is that those streets enhance the value of the properties being developed. I can possibly see certain roads that are privately built and maintained that provide a means to drive to certain market areas. But I would wager that the vast majority of roads would not be built and maintained if we had a 100% private road system. This gets into the whole question concerning public goods. Is there a valid case for roads to be provided where the free market will not provide them? Based solely on the free market, many country roads will not be paved or maintained. But those roads may provide some benefit to society and to those who live out in the country.

    Another example of an apparent market failure would be providing electricity to rural areas back in the 1920s and 1930s. Based on the free market, it was not economical to provide electricity to many rural areas. Prior to the Rural Electrification Act, only 10% of rural areas had electricity. The reality is that due to the relative isolation, lack of economies of scale, and the low amounts of electricity purchased, it was not economical or profitable for private utilities to provide electricity to rural customers. The Rural Electrification Act provided low interest and long term loans to co-opts to provide local distribution (private utilities still provided electric generation and transmission) to rural areas.

    I don’t disagree at all with free market principles. However, there are some gaps. Not to say that the Federal, state, or local should fill those gaps. But those gaps still exists.

    • Jeff,

      Thanks for the comment. It does stimulate thought.

      If local roads are not built to “all” places, then what might be a consequence of this?

      Some questions to ponder:

      • Would there be a market for a vehicle that can travel on non ideal surfaces?
      • Would the lack of paved roads alter where people choose to live?
      • Would the lack of paved roads affect the prices for houses sold in those areas? If yes, in which direction?
      • Would the lack of paved roads affect the type of homes built?

      Regarding your point about electricity. Is it possible that without gov’t intervention, solar (and other) off-grid solutions could have developed? Is it possible that these off-grid solutions could have been financially viable without gov’t intervention?

      If there was a community of individuals in an area without roads (or electricity), is it possible that they might attempt to band together to build/create/acquire things they would want as a community? Perhaps they could commission a road to be built. A watermill (or other devices) built to generate power.

      If the community banded together for common goals, they might have better relations with each other.

      It might even provide an opportunity for an entrepreneur to propose different projects to a community. I promise to build this road from A to B for this amount of $$$. I promise to build “this” for the community that will provide “that”.

      A bit of rambling, but since we do not see what might have happened, we can only speculate.

    • Re: Electricity–Do a search for ‘Delco Light Plant’. Many rural homes had this generator setup with a bank of glass jar batteries in the basement for electrical power. http://www.smokstak.com has a section for people who restore these light plants-that’s how I found out about them. They were ‘off grid’ before there was a ‘grid’!

    • It seems obvious to me (feel free to disagree) that transitioning away from a gunvermin road system is going to be more complex/difficult than had there never been gunvermin roads. But that does not mean it is not worth it. There are many brilliant minds in the (small l) libertarian movement. But until we convince a lot more folks to join ‘the remnant,’ it may not be worth expending the mental effort.
      On the other hand, at least some possibilities to suggest to those who ask “How will you do that?” would come in handy.

      • Roads preexisted the US government. Everyone knew that people have to get to places, so it was common practice to set aside the edge of ones property for transportation. There is no way to predict the quality of such roads had the State not interfered, but I feel safe saying that the quality would vary.

        • ” I feel safe saying that the quality would vary” – of course, quality always varies. The Constitution ‘authorized’ the FedGov to construct “post roads,” just as it ‘authorized’ operation of a postal service itself. In neither case did it claim monopoly privileges. And that’s assuming you accept the ‘authoritah’ of the Constitution to begin with.

        • Government road quality varies widely.

          That said too much effort goes to the ‘who will build the roads’. If government was reduced to an agency that built roads that would be a vast improvement over today.

          • Of note, a man was recently prosecuted for planting trees in the potholes of the gunvermin roads….
            He claimed that since they hadn’t repaired the roads in years, he shouldn’t be held responsible for protesting in that way.

            Of course, he was heavily fined, because you cannot allow the peasants to get away with such disobedience.

            ++++
            Anyone get the impression I should just sleep until noon or so? I seem to ALWAYS get up on the wrong wide of the bed. Even if I sleep on the couch… 😉

      • Transiitoning away from a gunvermin road system is going to be difficult/complex. Maybe, maybe not. Government roads are simultaneously horrendously expensive and of rather low quality. Why? Because the rebuilding/maintenance is so lucrative and politically rewarding. I29 through South Dakota makes a splendid example. Every other year it gets rebuilt, needed or (almost always) not.

        When the builders of castles in the air get done squandering the wealth and energy of this nation, perhaps enterprising individuals will be able to homestead them by simply taking over the maintenance, and charging a toll for their use. I have to believe that private road operators will make true competitive bid contracts and higher quality construction happen.

        Also, with all that air above, who needs roads? Moeller skycar anyone? The technology has been around for 70 years, but has been suppressed (mostly by licensing schemes). I’m a fan of rotorcraft myself, with modern controls then can be very simple to fly. All the licensing BS is what gets in the way. And the advantage the enforcers have over ground traffic mostly goes away. Can’t do speed traps or warrantless roadblocks in the air. Can’t hide in the bushes waiting to rob.

        Also, clover really can’t block the road in the air. If she wants to sightsee at 55mph, let her.

        There are alternatives, once the communists screw it up enough to be ousted.

    • I’m biased since I grew up being fed by an electric cooperative. I see nothing wrong in getting cheap money via a govt. entity since it shouldn’t cost taxpayers but they probably spun it some way to do so.

      As far as roads are concerned, I recall in ’61 when our family was charged $500 to pave our part of a city street. It was voluntary and although we didn’t need that street(edge of the town), others did and what goes around comes around. Our neighbors did need the road and it made it easier on everyone to pay their part. Some folks couldn’t pay and others paid for their share and the local bank floated notes for those who wanted to go that route which I can assure you most everyone did go that route since like Loretta said “we were pore” as was most everyone else. Many years later it seemed a no-brainer(I was about to say “on down the road”). Those streets stayed that way, paved and unpaved for decades before they all got paved.

      Up until last week I made my living building roads, driveways into farms and ranches, caliche and pavement both plus a great many lease roads. Those are all private roads. 30 years ago I built my driveway, 3/8ths of a mile. It was expensive but well worth it. I think city people and younger people just don’t realize how much roadway was built with private money. Most of our farm roads were paid for by fuel and oil taxes and oil companies sometimes paid more than their share, a great deal more in certain places, to have a paved road or at least an improved road. So the idea of private roads is something I’ve experienced all my life.

      • “like Loretta said “we were pore””

        “The work we done was hard; at night we’d sleep cause we was tard”
        Coal Miner’s Daughter – Loretta Lynn.

  3. Virtually every nice place which once existed in my lifetime, I have seen ruined by Uncle’s artificial development. Artificial development; thjen artificial demand, created by importing foreigners (or by people who are fleeing from the slums that their once middle-class neighborhoods became due to Uncle’s various redistribution-of-wealth programs to “alleviate poverty”); then, rising taxes to expand and maintain the artificial infrastructure… All so that we can drive around in vehicles which sit a few inches off the ground, because, perish the thought that we should have to drive real-world vehicles which are capable of navigating easily and cheaply maintained private unpaved roads. Oh, wait, half the population are driving around in 4×4 SUVs anyway. Hmmm…

    And what kills me, is that they built this monstrous infrastructure of roads and high-speed highways which have encouraged people to live 50 or 100 miles from where they work, and have allowed families to scatter all over creation, so that now the average person travels more in one week than a person traveled in a lifetime a mere 100 years ago, and then they go and penalize us for driving, and demand that we pay even more extortion to do so, and that we drive vehicles which meet THEIR criteria, rather than ours!

  4. Eric wrote:
    “But those roads and that development were – are – artificial. Government-grown. It doesn’t invalidate the soundness and viability of a privately-built, privately-owned alternative any more than (as in my state, Virginia) the government having a legal monopoly on the sale of hard liquor means that absent that monopoly, it would have been impossible for people to efficiently and freely buy and sell hard liquor among themselves.”

    If we extend the metaphor, I think we’ll see exactly “what could have been.”

    Prohibition was the ultimate monopoly, enforced by government arms…
    It gave rise to organized crime.

    I think that’s enough to show us that no matter what, people will find a solution to a problem….

    Government’s problem is, it wants ONE solution, ONLY, FOR ALL TIME.
    A boot, crushing the human face, forever.

  5. I always wondered if governments free roads lead to the auto freedom we once had. Uncle is largely immune from liability. If the private sector were in charge of roads, I often wonder if their regulations would be more stringent due to liability.

  6. There already was a model for this, the railroads. And the private enterprise of the railroads built a world class industrial nation in less than half a century, with a devastating war in the middle of it.

    I do, however, have two problems with this, that I have not been able to reconcile in my mind:

    Competition. How would it possibly be feasible to have competing superhighways? The railroads could do it, mostly because one ten foot ROW is enough for a class 1 rail line, as opposed to a quarter mile or more for an eight lane highway. But to have twenty or more competing surface roads? I don’t see any way that would be practical.

    So ABC Road Company decides that it is now “policy” that you carry a million dollars of insurance, that speed will be restricted to 40 mph, and you cannot drive a vehicle on their road with festooning twenty revolving lights and hazard flashers all over it, and submit to continuous surveillance, or you will not be allowed on their road. Oh joy, guess who owns the only roads you can access from your home?

    Land use and eminent domain. The railroads built a great deal of their lines by using, to my mind, the very worst sort of eminent domain, government seizure of private property to be turned over to a private enterprise for profit.

    It was the 19th railroad related SCOTUS decisions that the modern day clowns in gowns used to justify the atrocious Kelo v. New London decision.

    • You’re being too literal. Sure, many roads, side by side, make no sense and is a waste of capital. But there are competitive transportation technologies, even now. Airplanes, trains, streetcars and subways (streetcars were once commercial enterprises and there’s no reason why they couldn’t be again), rivers and even your own two feet are competitors to automobile highways. People have walked across continents. Private planes exist and for many people aren’t considered costly to operate (it helps to have a lot of land available for a landing strip). People own private boats and do use them as transportation on rivers and oceans.

      If a road owner decided to extort the “monopoly” of their road, you can be sure someone somewhere would figure out an alternative. It might be just to build another road next to his, but why stop there? Why not take advantage of the knowledge gained by seeing the bad example of the monopolist’s road and improve it? Maybe better building techniques, or improved materials that last longer and reduce maintenance and closures. Maybe the competitor has an idea for a better route than the one the existing road takes. If the existing road really is the best route, why not just strike an agreement with the owner to carry traffic for the competitor. Sure the existing road owner can turn down the request, but everything has a price, and it is highly likely a competitor has a road that might be needed by the “monopoly” road owner. If the road companies can’t reach an agreement someone will come up with an alternative, or customers will just do without (sucks but hey life’s rough sometimes). Customers in need are magnets to entrepreneurs.

      Maybe a railroad owner figures out that the most efficient way to power his trains is by using electricity, and he builds a series of power generating stations along the route. Then he figures out that he can sell excess power generation to the public, creating another revenue source and he’s then able to lower the cost of running his trains. That either leads to more profit for his shareholders or in the case of a truly competitive market would lead to competitors having to step up their game and get more efficient. A lot of revenue was generated when the Pennsylvania Railroad figured out that if they bury the tracks in Manhattan they could sell the “air rights” to builders who could then build skyscrapers on top. But they needed the technology of electrically powered trains to make it possible.

      Again, the downside is that it takes someone who not only is able to see the problems with the existing transportation system, but also is able to convince others to back him in his efforts to improve it. This takes time, and the more capital required the more time it will take to get funding. Some people don’t want to wait that long and use the government to compel the public to fund their project. This destroys the marketplace. Then the government, having spent money, uses force to maintain its monopoly. Eventually innovation is eliminated or at least reduced to a trickle. That’s where we are now, where so-called innovative transportation technology is either so inconsequential as to not matter or so pie-in-the-sky infeasible that no one will ever take it seriously.

      • Eric_G you said “Private planes exist and for many people aren’t considered costly to operate (it helps to have a lot of land available for a landing strip). “. That used to be much more true than now. The fedgov via NHTSA ran cheap planes out of bidness. There used to be a lot of private planes i nTx but now planes have become expensive.

        • When I was a kid it was unusual but not unheard of to know someone with an airplane. It was a hobby, much like owning a boat or motorcycle. Many of their planes were built by the pilots as kits. Farm communities especially had numbers of hobby pilots, again because there was enough space for a runway and storage. I hadn’t thought about hobby airplanes in years, one of those things that you think is still going on, but not noticed.

          It’s a shame Uncle had to regulate away something so interesting.

          • Amateur built aircraft are a vibrant section of aviation, one which leads ‘factory built’ in airframe, engine control systems and avionics technologies. I built my Van’s RV9A for about $50k–I have electronic fuel injection and ignition, LED lighting, and could put in all manner of ‘glass’ instruments should I so desire. It took a lot of dedicated hard work by the Experimental Aviation Association to carve out this niche in the FAA’s regulations so I and tens of thousands like me can build and fly our own planes, and for a fraction of what it would cost to by a new ‘factory’ plane from Cessna or Piper.
            General aviation is a perfect example of how gov’t regulations stifle industry. A new Cessna 172 (a flying Chevy Malibu) costs upwards of $200,000, has a 180 HP engine that was designed in the late 1940’s with a pair of fixed time MAGNETOS and mechanical ‘continuous spray’ fuel injection, and an airframe that hasn’t been updated since the mid ’70s. It can be had with a ‘glass’ instrument panel for around an extra $50k. It goes about 125 mph. Imagine going to a Chevy dealer and buying a 2016 Malibu that looks identical to a 1976 model, points in the distibutor, carburetor, but with a nicer radio–oh and it costs around $75K. This is what Gov’t regulations do to an industry-stifle it. Get the Gov’t out of the way-and innovation abounds.

            • Hi Greg,

              Your point regarding aviation is spot on. Government involvement – government micromanagement – is why the cost of entry is so forbidding and also why it’s so Soviet.

              Another example: Terrestrial radio.

              Satellite has end-run Uncle there, though!

  7. SexyMacbook:~ ericg$ traceroute ericpetersautos.com
    traceroute to ericpetersautos.com (67.202.111.16), 64 hops max, 52 byte packets
    1 192.168.88.1 (192.168.88.1) 0.470 ms 0.414 ms 0.341 ms
    2 96.120.13.201 (96.120.13.201) 8.816 ms 9.655 ms 8.679 ms
    3 ae-211-sr01.battlement.co.denver.comcast.net (68.86.105.181) 8.761 ms 9.364 ms 8.735 ms
    4 xe-1-3-0-sur01.rifle.co.denver.comcast.net (162.151.8.69) 9.538 ms 9.380 ms 8.907 ms
    5 ae-10-sur01.granby.co.denver.comcast.net (162.151.51.22) 13.548 ms 13.086 ms 12.741 ms
    6 ae-38-ar01.denver.co.denver.comcast.net (68.86.103.5) 15.052 ms 15.307 ms 15.676 ms
    7 4.68.63.165 (4.68.63.165) 15.197 ms 23.981 ms 14.893 ms
    8 * * *
    9 nozone-inc.ear2.chicago2.level3.net (4.71.248.202) 45.272 ms 45.112 ms 45.774 ms
    10 te3-3.dist01.chi01.steadfast.net (208.100.32.55) 45.780 ms 44.602 ms 52.310 ms
    11 ip16.67-202-111.static.steadfastdns.net (67.202.111.16) 46.078 ms 44.428 ms 45.473 ms

    Roads are a type of network. What you see above is an example of a network that was established without government intervention (ignoring for now the fact that every telecom company is a crony capitalist in bed with the FCC). Until recently there were no laws that said any ISP had to take any traffic from any other ISP. The driver was that there was a major cost savings in route sharing and the fact that if my ISP can’t find a path to Eric’s site, I’m going to be shopping for another ISP. Sure, there are situations when the system breaks (the whole Comcast and Netflix debacle played out in the media a few years ago), but for the most part it all works with agreements, contracts and the fact that the benefits to interconnection outweigh the hassles.

    I don’t have to pay Level 3 to have my data traverse their network. Comcast might, but they take care of all that. Level 3 and Comcast might instead decide they both send enough traffic across each other’s networks so that there’s no need to pay for the interconnection. Either way, I pay Comcast to worry about that. If Comcast gets too greedy I might be able to sign up with their competitors, who might have different advantages or disadvantages. Or I might even get together with my neighbors and build a network, buying bandwidth in bulk from a tier-1 or tier-2 provider.

    Comcast has a fairly large nationwide network. It’s in their best interest to keep my traffic on their network because that way they can deliver a consistent product and keep interconnection costs low. You’ll see that my traffic only left Comcast’s network in Denver or Chicago to cross over to steadfast.net via Level 3. Another ISP might not have the scale of Comcast, and traffic from their network might ride on Level 3’s network for much longer distances, or maybe run over multiple networks.

    Now some of you are going to say that the capital required to build a road is much, much higher than what it costs to build a telecommunications network, and so therefore only the state has the “resources” available to do so. Would investors be willing to front the capital needed to build a highway? I think if there’s value inherent in transportation, then there will be investors. Those investors would gravitate to companies that have the ability to build quality roads at a lower cost than their competitors.

    But building the road network with private capital would take a long time. Investors don’t like to see their money used for potential boondoggles. Uncle doesn’t like to wait for market forces, so he seizes the market and takes it over, crowding out any potential investment possibilities. In the 1990s there was more than a little grousing about how “other countries” had much faster-better-cheaper-unicorns Internet service than the US. Many of these countries have state-run telecom infrastructure. They were able to construct a state-owned network much sooner than the private sector in the US. They built out an extremely expensive fiber network. Meanwhile in the US the cable industry realized they had a competitive edge in the greater bandwidth in their networks and were able to get a leg up on the phone companies, who lobbied hard for government money to build a data network (by the way they did, just too slow and based on the wrong technology). Because cable companies were able to offer a superior product at a lower cost they became the primary way to get Internet service in your home.

    • Oh and one more thing: Those expensive fiber optic networks? Yea, these days fiber is cheap. So cheap to install that it’s now the default way to get Internet to homes in new developments. So cheap to maintain that Verizon employees are on strike because they’re worried they’ll be out of work if the old copper network goes away. So cheap that Google can make money running a fiber to the home network on advertising (as long as the cities where they do business grant them special favors). In fact the most expensive part of building a fiber network is the permitting and getting access to the rights of way. If the government networks would have just waited a while like private enterprise did, they could have saved a ton of taxpayer money.

  8. Here we have mines. and they have access roads and are built on the right path. Same with forest or mountain access roads (where they put cell towers).
    The only thing worse than the grids are those winding developer planned neighborhoods with the home owners association grass roots tyranny.
    As to DC and VA gridlock, who could have predicted Uncle would double in size every few years? The arteries can never grow as fast as his vainness.

  9. Private ownership? Big government and big business are entwined creatures, both rife with the least desirable aspects of human nature. One in the same. Study the history and evolution of railroads.

    • Hi CC,

      True. But, I think we are very close to a fork in road… the system we’re suffering under cannot last much longer. I suspect it will go “whole hog” socialist-collectivist, which will only hasten the inevitable collapse. And perhaps then we can start over fresh.

      • I hope rebuilding after the collapse is not a return to feifdoms with feudal kingdoms. Most metropolitan governments with their large, vibrant slums are already set up this way. City folk seem drawn that way of life as popular culture has fully embraced the ghetto culture. Indoctrination was successful.

        I don’t think the fly-over zones will readily accept this form of governance. Perhaps this is the ultimate push behind gun control with ammo restrictions and reducing personal transportation back to foot, beasts of burden and overpriced electric buggies with a 20 mile travel radii.

      • Let me try this for the 6th time.

        eric, those wheels you speak of move so slowly I fear I’ll not see any real change except for more totalitarian everything. Residents of Houston have been seeing a huge amount of tanks on railcars that have accumulated in the sidings. There really are feet on the ground in Syria now even though no one officially admits it but many correspondents have noted it, even Reuters who isn’t exactly a paragon of truth or speaking to the PTB or ill of them and certainly not in the forefront of internet news attempting to show the truth. So what are the tanks for? Well, there is a big push right now of handing out all sorts of military hardware to police depts., esp. Houston and they’re preparing for a “civil disobedience drill”, complete with a great deal of small arms and ammo, cell phone equipment and crowd riot control of various means including all the usual plus things such as sonic suppression incapacitation. This is happening in all large population centers. It’s Tianamen Square times one thousand.

        Wanta bet those tanks are armed to the teeth? Probably not SO many rounds of high explosives but lots of non-lethal things as they say that are quite lethal all bullshit aside. They just don’t blow up the infra-structure as badly. Humans are cheap but not XOM’s HQ or Verizon’s facilities or BOA.

        These “crowd control” sorties are a great way to threaten while pretending to be some sort of civil service.

        The US can’t afford a French revolution and won’t allow one. I predict there is guerilla warfare in the not so distant future. They’ll use the military and poleez to safeguard food centers to starve the hostile population. That should up the ante.

      • But on what time scale? Even if collapse happens tomorrow morning it will take decades to bring about a free society if at all. That’s the problem. There’s no will to take the little pain now or years ago to prevent the full collapse and what could easily be decades of pain. That said ZIRP has already been nearly a decade of pain, but only for those the system despises.

        • BrentP, you’ll get no argument from me. That’s why I said I’d never live to see anything but more totalitarianism. It pains me to say it. I was front and center(You possibly saw my young face on some old film)in the protests against Vietnam. Stupid me, I thought we’d continue to make a change but once the threat of going to Asia to fertilize a field, everybody sorta dropped out except the people they(TPTB and the MSM)radicalized to the nth degree. I’m old but I still get hot about the entire debacle.

          Truth be known(and it is by the govt.)I’ve been hounded since I was 21. And it hasn’t gone away. They never forget. If any were still alive, those friends I had who did some work for the children in action have all been offed. Think I”m talking bullshit? It took multiple tries for two of them. One had his trailer house on the outside of Clyde Tx. attacked by multiple shooters in multiple vehicles. He grabbed his GF, threw her in the tub and covered them both with mattresses while they literally cut the house in half. No DPS, of which there were plenty right there on I-20, no deputies nor anyone else showed up in this tiny town where the people must have been terrified and calling the SO…..but no one ever showed up. They evidently ran out of ammo after a while. My friend chopped a hole in the floor and they slipped off into the darkness.

          That was the second try on him with the first being sabotage of his plane in S. America where he went down in mountain forests, somehow lived through the “landing”, walked to a village and became their own ‘celebrity” where he convalesced. He almost didn’t return but he had a sizeable farm and wanted to return. I think he regretted that.

          I stopped believing in coincidence.

          In late ’79 I went to work for a company that was in the forefront of fiber optics. It was an exciting time and I should have taken the offer to run a plowtrain. Once again, govt. stepped in and ruined that biz. It was a foul court battle and I felt lucky to get out a free man even though I had broken no laws. Coincidence, it just doesn’t happen.

        • “That said ZIRP has already been nearly a decade of pain, but only for those the system despises.” That would be everyone except those who are in that club that you and I ain’t members of.

  10. Unfortunately it is too late to go to this operating model now, unless the entire system is privatized. Even if that happens, you can be sure the divestiture process will be ridden with corruption.

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