Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Pete asks: I agree with some of your argument that the government is really the owner of your car but you fail to address that infrastructure to drive your car does need to rebuilt. So roads, lighting, guard rails, signs, etc. all wear out over time and do need to be rebuild/repaired. That money to rebuild does have to come from somewhere. So whether a state does it through licensing, tolls, gas tax, whatever the amount we pay does at least equal a user fee to repair/replace what your driving on which is actually fair to me. I think there is way too much corruption/waste in all levels of government and if that could ever be cleaned up we’d all pay considerably less for everything. How in your Libertarian utopia would we maintain roads?
My reply: Sigh…
Is the current state of affairs utopian? Why is it that Libertarians are expected to establish perfection as the counter to imperfection?
What Libertarians do advocate is the reduction of – ideally, the elimination of – coercive collectivist interactions in favor of voluntary/peaceful ones.
A fee is voluntarily paid; a tax is not.
I’ve written previously about motor fuel taxes – which function as fees, since there is no coercion (and which fees go to build and maintain roads, on a pay as you go and anonymous basis). But taxes on vehicle ownership (e.g., property taxes, registration fees) are very different. They are both coercive and punitive, as explained in my article. The effect of them is to render the idea of owning a vehicle absurd, since the tax applies even if the vehicle isn’t used.
In a Libertarian system, people who wanted to use a road would pay for the service, just as they pay for any other. But no one would be forced to pay – for anything.
And once you paid for an item like a car or house, it would be yours. No one else could legally force you to continue making payments on it, in order to be allowed the “privilege” of possessing and using either thing.
Would it be utopia? Of course not. The word – coined by Sir Thomas More – literally means No Place.
But it’d be preferable to what exists now.
. . .
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