But What About the Roads?

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But what about the roads? 

Anyone who has tried to advocate for a libertarian society – i.e., a society in which coercion is the fundamental crime – has heard this refrain. Its premise is that we’d have no roads to travel on if it weren’t for government seizing people’s land – this is styled “eminent domain,” to make it sound official rather than immoral – and forcing people to pay for the roads laid down upon them. 

It’s a strange argument given that – in the first place – roads precede government. They may have been (at first) mere paths or trails through woods and fields – but the function is fundamentally the same as any other road.

Some of these trails and paths eventually became very much like the roads as we know them, sans the asphalt and guardrails, of course. These roads were considered the public right-of-way for much of history – and it was accepted that everyone had the right to travel upon them.

So, roads – and the principle of the public right-of-way – predate government.

It is government which has abused the public right-of-way, by claiming ownership of them and by turning the use of them into a conditional privilege which may be (and often is) rescinded at the government’s pleasure.

People are compelled to apply for a license to use what were the public right-of-ways and may only use them in government-approved vehicles, the ownership of which has also been turned into a kind of conditional rentership, in that the “owner” is compelled to make regular – and endless – payments for such things as “registration” in order not only to be allowed to use the vehicle on what once were the public right-of ways but also to retain possession of the vehicle, itself.

If government got out of the road business there would certainly still be roads – because there always have been roads. And people would be free to use them – and to pay for them – according to whether they needed to or wanted to use them. 

Is government necessary for commerce to exist? 

This is the best way to answer the person who worries there’d be no roads if there were no government. 

Commerce also predates government – but it is preyed upon, by government. Absent government, people are free to engage in commerce; i.e., to participate in voluntary free exchange. Transactions occur based upon the willingness of the parties involved to exchange one thing for another thing they value more – and which the person on the other end of the exchange also values more. Smith has a coin in his pocket, but he cannot eat the coin and he is hungry. Jones offers tasty sandwiches at his store, in exchange for such coins. Smith and Jones engage in the free exchange of the one for the other – and both end up with something of greater value (to each, respectively) than the thing he had before.

The exchange is not only free, it is whole. No portion of the value exchanged is sucked away from either party to the exchange in the form of such things as “taxes” – the euphemism for theft by government or “inflation,” the euphemism given for the devaluation of money by government via the compulsory use of fiat “money” as the only lawful medium of exchange.

People get what they want; they aren’t forced to pay for what they don’t want – much less for what they don’t use  – as in the case of the government schools people who home-school or don’t have kids are forced to pay for via the regular – and never ending – payment of “taxes” on the homes they are never allowed to truly own, by dint of being obliged to endlessly pay “taxes”on their home. 

In a libertarian society, people aren’t obliged to pay a third party – the government – every time they engage in free exchange.

Some say only government can build and maintain modern roads. And yet, modern private roads already exist. It does not require government to buy or lay asphalt or to buy and improve the land upon which roads are built any more than it requires government to build a Starbucks or buy the land upon which it is built.

It does, of course require government to force people to surrender their land – i.e., to “eminent domain” their land. But it is ridiculous to insist that roads could only be built via “eminent domain.” Rather, it would require those who wish to build roads to pay the market price for the land upon which they’d like to build them – that being a sum sufficient to persuade the owner of the land to freely exchange it.

A good – modern – example of this being fact rather than fiction is the way cell phone towers are being erected in rural areas such as the area where this writer lives. The companies who want to erect a tower offer the owner of the land upon which they’d like to site the tower a sum of money in exchange for his permission to put the tower up and to have right-of-way access to it. He is free to accept this deal – or not. If he does not, perhaps his neighbor will.

The towers have gone up – and without anyone’s land being “eminent domained.” 

There is no reason such a principle could not also be applied to the laying down of roads as the principle is the same. You pay for what you use – and you don’t take what you haven’t paid for – or which the person isn’t willing to sell you.

If the road builder bought the land upon which the road is built, improves the road – as by paving it, as by widening it, as by extended it – and then offers it to those who wish to use it, who pay a sum to use it that is worth more to them than whatever that sum happens to be, to them, then everyone profits.

That’s free exchange.

It works by definition – because it wouldn’t happen, otherwise. Only when coercion is applied can that which doesn’t work – as defined by the unwillingness of the affected parties to be a party to it – be made to “work.”

. . .

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  1. >Kaczynski still used the US mail service

    Touché, RG. 🙂 And well played. 🙂
    But…doesn’t that make the U.S. Gov’t a “state sponsor of terrorism?”
    Oh, right, they already were. CIA, etc. What’s one more body, among co-conspirators?

    >Do most parents whose children attend public school pay for the actual $11K per year

    Which is *exactly* the argument for publicly funded education. Being myself the product of what was then an excellent public education system, I have difficulty wrapping my head around the complaints of those who disparage that system. To me, at least, it all goes back to the parents’ moral and *legal* responsibility to see that their children are educated, so the children do not become a burden to society, and society’s duty to see that children whose parents cannot afford the “full cost” should be provided for.

    It is in *YOUR* enlightened self interest to see that your neighbors’ children do not grow up ignorant and unemployable, with no way to make an honest living. Never mind the allegation that the biggest thieves, those who rob with a pen, are *very* well educated, and many are considered to be “pillars of society,” at least until they get caught. 🙂

    How well the system actually works, at any given time and place, is another question entirely, at least in my view. So, I do think that parents should have a choice, which you have exercised, without having to pay twice. AFAIK, that issue (paying double) has mostly not been addressed, but I could be wrong.

    • To use another, possibly relevant, analogy, it is your legal responsibility to control your dog, to see that it:
      a) is not rabid, and
      b) does not bite anyone, whether or not it has rabies.
      If your dog *does* bite someone, animal control quarantines the dog (14 days, where I live) and you, the owner, pay for the quarantine.

      So, if your JD (juvenile delinquent) son or daughter causes harm, IMO, you, the parent should pay for whatever harm was done (actual damages) plus their keep at juvenile hall, if “da judge” sends them there (to what purpose, I do not know). Counterproductive, it seems to me, to socialize the cost of crime. So, what happens when they become adults? Restitution in lieu of punishment? Perhaps. I would say that the idea of the “Penitentiary,” housing “penitents” who are to reflect on the wickedness of their crimes, and reform themselves into productive citizens, went philosophically bankrupt a *long* time ago.


  2. In 2021, there were 693,634 members of the Libertarian Party. The 10 least populated States have under 1,400,000 people. This means if every Libertarian moved to one of these 10 states they could form a Libertarian Paradise where people pay directly for their roads, or the schools they want, and property taxes would be non-existent. Yet this has not happened.

    Any ideas why?

    • Hi Blah,

      One of the most common non sequiturs offered up in critique of libertarian ideas is that of the “Libertarian Paradise.” In other words, that something approaching perfection or utopia is possible – as opposed to something better than what exists.

      As far as every libertarian moving to the least populated states. Many of us have moved to places that are less populated; the problem is these places are still part of the same system and it is often only a matter of time before the places they left follow them to the places where they went.

      In other words, it’s a delaying action only.

      A viable long-term solution is to persuade a sufficiency of people that a more libertarian system is not only morally superior but also in their interests. As for instance having more rather than less money as well as sound money.

      • The best way to demonstrate the “morally superior” Libertarian system is to enact a Libertarian system. This can be done by taking a controlling majority in a State, County, or City. If/When the Libertarians demonstrate their system is better and cheaper, then other states, counties, and cities will follow.

        • Hi Blah,

          I disagree. The best way to demonstrate the moral superiority of libertarian ideas is to embrace and practice them. Attempting to use government – that is, force – to propagate libertarian ideas is a contradiction in terms. When a sufficiency of people decides that every human being has a natural right to be let alone unless he has caused harm to someone else or their property, that any taking of other people’s property is theft, whatever you choose to call it… then the problem will solve itself.

          • We’ll have to agree to disagree. Your solution can be applied to most religions and economic systems. Everything will be OK if we all behave like angels and cooperate. Won’t happen until the Second Coming; and remember, even Heaven had a revolt.

            A Libertarian government is a step in the right direction. Yes, governments have the power and possibly the right to use force — which even you agreed to by saying, “… every human being has a natural right to be let alone unless he has caused harm to someone else or their property”. Who will take care of the person who caused harm? Government or vigilantes? I’m hoping you mean a very limited form of government and not armed neighbors who think you took their garbage can and not the wind!

            So why shouldn’t there be a Libertarian government? Hold property rights as something sacred. Ban yearly registrations and property taxes. Then we’ll see how such a government functions and, if successful, other governments will follow. Then the problem will solve itself.

            • Hi Blah,

              I agree with a lot of what you are saying, but the problem is everyone has different degrees/ideas of what “libertarianism” is. Some libertarians believe in a centralized (but limited) force for basic necessities – military for assistance in urgent times (e.g., hurricanes, not wars), roads, etc. Others want no centralized government or a more anarchic approach, where only natural laws would be deemed the “law of the land.”

              The problem is no government will ever succeed – it doesn’t matter if it is libertarian, communist, or a median between the two. For government to succeed all people must be in agreement and let’s be honest, that’s impossible. The more people involved the less chance of its continued existence. Why? Because everyone wants something for free and as the French aristocrat, Alexis de Tocqueville stated:

              “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”

              Would I prefer a more freeing approach and a little less boot on my neck? Absolutely, but it would be short lived like life in general, nothing ever lasts.

              • Hi, RG,
                “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”

                And that day has long since passed, as far as I can see. Every time I hear some local politician propose an expensive project of questionable value, and assure local citizens the project will be paid for with “federal money,” as if that were manna from heaven, I want to puke.

                Those are OUR tax dollars, a-hole. We paid our taxes at gunpoint, and now, if we are good little boys and girls, our would be masters will let us have some of them back, with strings attached. Such a deal!

    • If you really dig into the numbers in Georgia, the mess in the Senate can be laid at the feet of ~11,000 Libertarians “voting their conscience” when it came to the Perdue-Ossoff race, supporting their candidate down ballot and forcing a runoff while still, strangely, voting for the Orange Man instead of the candidate with the (L) behind their name.

      Of course, the race never should have been that close, and the argument can be made that fault is shared with the 300,000 Republicans who stayed home instead of voting in the runoffs later.

        • I’m familiar with the state. Half of my family tree originates in Georgia, and I grew up in Florida. The suburban Democrat voter white women turned out in force in both the November election and the January runoff.

          If 300,000 Republicans hadn’t stayed home in January and Raphael Warnock still won by a narrow margin, even the African American community would have thought something was fishy.

      • Hawaii’s population is just over 1.4M. A much warmer state could be voted-over since many are of non-voting age.

  3. Eric, I’m glad you mentioned schools too. The other day I saw a pie chart that broke down what “my” state tax dollars are spent on (quotes because once a thief takes my money it goes from “my” to “used to be my”).

    “Transportation” was a tiny fraction of the size of the biggest slice, “Education.” The story’s the same at the county level: almost all of the ransom I pay to keep from being evicted from my home is squandered on crappy schools for other people’s kids.

    So if somebody were to challenge my voluntaryist principles by asking me “Who would build the roads?”, I would tell him let’s do the easy stuff first: make it illegal for any government in our state to tax anyone for schools. Who would build the schools? Anybody with a knack for teaching and a desire for profit, that’s who.

    As you have described, building roads is complicated, mostly because it involves crossing property owned by lots and lots of people. Schools by comparison are simple. If the statist ones were defunded today, entrepreneurs would spring into action and replace them almost literally overnight. Of course school boards could opt to keep theirs operating, but they would have to pay the bills the way their competitors have to: by offering a product so good that people will voluntarily pay their own money for it.

    • Amen, Roland –

      The taxes I am forced to pay to be allowed to remain in the home I paid for years ago annoy me more than any other tax – because I cannot avoid paying them, ever, unless I decide to become homeless (or rent, which means paying…).

      The question I ask is the same one you have, with a follow-up: Why am I obliged to “help” pay for the education of other people’s kids, as I had no hand in the decision to bring those kids into the world? I don’t dislike kids. That is a non sequitur – and a smear. I like kids, actually. I jus resent that I “owe” because someone else chose to have them.

      And – is there any limit to how much I am obliged to pay? Thus far, I have been made to hand over some $40,000 to “help” educate other people’s kids. If I stay in my house another 20 years, that sum will approach $100,000 …

      That money would enable me to not have to get up at 3:30 in the morning each day to work for the rest of the day. I could work a little less and enjoy my life a bit more. But because other people have kids, I have to work to pay for them.

      • “I had no hand in the decision to bring those kids into the world”
        Nor did you engage in the pleasure of creating them. I wonder, how those benefitting from our involuntary largesse in educating their children would react to those footing that bill demanding sexual privileges in compensation?

        • “demanding sexual privileges in compensation”
          On occasion I have commented how collectivist ideologies never apply to that aspect of life.

          Productivity of a man is very much related to sexual access until collectivism sets in. Once there’s no need to ‘settle’ because the state covers downside risks the entire mate selection game gets warped. You get what we have today or worse as a result.

          Now of course there will be examples of countries that remained traditional socially but collectivist economically. That’s because they were universally poor and work was back breaking. The state’s default provision wasn’t nearly good enough. For a western nation it’s equal to a well paying job except there’s no need to ever show up to a job so it’s like being paid twice that.

        • Excellent point, John… if I’m paying for the result then I think I’m entitled to the fun, too.

          Of course, the usual suspects would be outraged …by that.

      • The other side of the coin is that school really sucks for the kids that go there, and they are teaching things that are worse than ignorance. Teachers often take home more money than the parents. Even bad teacher. Prior to 2020 you have had a decreasing standard of core education – reading, writing, math and science has been replaced with skimming, copypasta, guessing, and the religious doctrine of science. Gym was replaced with PE, PE was replaced with LGBTQ+ indoctrination.

        Then in 2020, the multi-million dollar school facilities were shut down and people had to pay taxes for kids not to use the buildings or recieve their shitty overpriced miseducation. When kids went back, they were tormented with irrational fear and face diapers that cause or exasperate health and mental problems while costing more money.

        So as a not quite libertarian, I think schools should be defunded and kids should be learning how to garden, cut trails, repair things, sew etc and taxpayers could recieve an occasional basket of veggies or have their bicycle repaired and kids would cut trails for you to ride on.

      • I very nuch echo you here, Eric. You’re probably used to the looks and retorts you receive when you tell people this. Sometimes the “social contract” is brought up. Also, we must pay for other people’s kids’ education so there won’t be a bunch of stupid people around.

        Yeah, that’s worked out.

        • Morning, BaDnOn!

          The most illuminating (for me) moment in re the “looks and stares” was when I broached the subject at a Tea Party event years ago, where I thought I was among like-minded people. I quickly learned I was among cognitively dissonant people. They were very indignant about “welfare” but the schools… well, you must not have kids (check) or hate them (nope). I was accused of being “selfish” for objecting to being forced to subsidize not merely “the schools” but also the indoctrination of the kids. By “conservatives” who claimed to object to “big government.”

          • You mean the same conservatives that think it is reasonable and justified to spend $705 billion dollars annually on defense? The Conservative Party lost me long ago. I am out here floating around waiting for some type of true Conservatarian Party to be implemented. You know crazy ideas like – true free trade (no subsidies), no bailouts, education paid for by parents, personal responsibility for one’s own retirement, minimal defense, assets that one truly “owns” and are not taxed on a year-to-year basis, no representative “democracy”, zero welfare, etc. I am not holding my breath. Until then I will continue to circle around in purgatory.

              • Absolutely. You are asking a mother who homeschools her children if all education should be paid for by the parents. One hundred percent, yes. Anytime government offers “assistance” the costs always triple. Look at Pell Grants, GI Bill, FAFSA. There is no free anything, someone, somewhere is paying for it.

                • OK, next question.
                  My understanding is that you, and Eric, were educated at a publicly funded university. Is that correct?

                  If so, I guarantee your education cost less than that at a purely private institution. Meaning, it was subsidized by taxing those other than your parents.


                  • Hi Turtle,

                    I graduated from GMU; at the time – late 1980s – annual tuition (non-boarding) was around $5k, if I am remembering correctly. It is closer to $20k today. I’m not sure how much is subsidized – but your point is taken and I don’t dispute it. The broader point is these things should be paid for entirely by those who use them. It’s that principle which needs to be re-learned and respected.

                    • Hi, Eric,
                      Please see my reply to RG.

                      I think that, in today’s highly technological society, the idea of the entirely “self made man (or woman)” is romantic nonsense.

                      Of course, there are counter examples from history (Michael Faraday being one), but, for the most part, a sustained and disciplined program of effort at a “brain gym” of your choice is nearly essential to success in the modern world, no matter your eventual choice of “way to get money.”

                      [Of course, if your preferred “way to get money” is dealing in unauthorized pharmaceuticals, perhaps State Pen is a better choice than Penn State.]

                      That is to say, learning to think critically, as opposed to absorbing “facts,” or getting your credential ticket punched. (I am not impressed by people with academic “credentials” other than M.D. or D.D.S. who insist on being called “Doctor.” In my experience, such people are some of the least intelligent, and are hiding behind a credential so they do not have to think.)

                      Bottom line:
                      People like us are dangerous. 🙂

                  • Hi turtle,

                    We can make the same argument over public schools (which I am sure many of us went to), or the roads, or when we purchase something from Amazon. All of these are subsidized in some shape and form.

                    When the university bill arrived my parents (and later, myself) paid for the amount due. We didn’t apply for student aid or assistance. There is absolutely no escaping from all subsidies.

                    My business gets to deduct corporate expenses each year. Am I am not being subsidized by someone else, because I have a lower tax bill than if I were to be taxed on the full amount of my revenues received?

                    • >Am I am not being subsidized by someone else, because I have a lower tax bill than if I were to be taxed on the full amount of my revenues received?

                      Exactly right, RG.
                      And I do take your point, being self-employed since 1996.

                      Stated otherwise, we are both acknowledging that government has the power to direct (or “distort,” if you prefer) the economy, to a greater or lesser extent, in an attempt to achieve social goals.

                      As you have so aptly illustrated, IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO GET OUT OF THE GAME. 🙂

                      Absent pulling a Ted Kaczynski, of course, and we know how that one ended. 🙁

                    • Hi turtle,

                      Although I cringe when I hear Obama’s “you didn’t build that” in some shape or form he is correct. No one is 100% self-made.

                      Any of us born in a hospital has been touched by the hand of government no matter how much we wish we weren’t…meaning the hospital has received subsides from Medicare, Medicaid, or state coffers.

                      We use public highways. Have any of us contributed to the entire cost of the highway to counter for what we use? Doubtful, but each of us pay for it in some way through the gasoline tax, sales tax, or income tax.

                      Do most parents whose children attend public school pay for the actual $11K per year that it takes to school their children? A few do, but many do not.

                      I think the difference can be associated with the question – was there a choice in the matter? I think it is absolutely pointless (and completely irrational) to antagonize someone because their parents’ collected welfare benefits when they were a child. If isn’t the child’s fault.

                      BTW – Kaczynski still used the US mail service and although he may have paid for the postage it was still being subsidized in a larger part by the American taxpayer. I guarantee his $.25 stamp was not the true cost of fuel and labor for his cut-out letters. 😉

              • Just in case this is a trick question, turtle. I believe either parents or the student should pay for higher education. A parent should not be responsible for their 27-year-old working toward their doctorate. There comes a time when the umbilical cord must be cut.

                You probably also don’t want to hear my views about wedding costs! 😉

                • LOL.
                  I don’t believe in weddings, RG. At least, I do not believe the *state* has any business sticking its nose into peoples’ private lives. Church weddings? Private “commitment ceremonies?” Different story. Your private business, and that of your friends and family ONLY. State should butt out.

                • OK.
                  [Taking deep breath.]
                  Speaking from personal experience, financial assistance from *somewhere* was what made it possible for me to obtain an education, from elementary school through university, and beyond, without incurring lifelong debt penury.

                  My parents, both WWII veterans (both were commissioned officers in U.S. Army) like so many of their generation, wanted the best for their children, but were themselves of modest means.

                  I was able to attend, and graduate from, a private university directly I graduated HS @ age 16, due in part to National Defense Education Act,. post Sputnik era low interest student loans (federal subsidy of interest discount) as well as discounted tuition (“scholarships”) by the school itself.

                  When I returned to school @ age 32 (career change, or “academic retread”), the state subsidized Cal State system (nearly free, at that time) was the only thing which made it possible. Nearly all of my fellow students, and there was a range of ages, were working *at* *least* part time, many, like myself, full time.

                  My three siblings, all younger than I, also “kicked over the traces” at a young age, but returned to school later, purely at their own initiative, and on their own dimes.

                  We did it “our way,” but that mountain might well have been insurmountable without “help” from society at large.

                  JMO. YMMV.

      • Yes, Eric, if I hated kids then I would be all-in for government schools. The last thing I would argue for would be private for-profit schools that would continually improve. They would do so because of the unrelenting pressure that those of us who have worked for ourselves understand well: either please your customers or go broke.

  4. This article highlights the larger issue.
    Americans are under the belief that rights come from government. That nothing existed before government.

    When we believe this falsity, we look upon government as our savior, caretaker, and creator of society itself. We are unable imagine a world without it, which is what government wants.

    Government is a leech. It can have benefits, but must suck your blood to provide it.

    • Morning, Dan!

      Yes, exactly – as regards government being a leech (and something worse) – which was the underlying point I was trying to make in the article. Would roads be “better” absent government? Maybe – and maybe not. But there would be less coercion – and that strikes me as best of all.

  5. The ATV/UTV/Dirtbike crowd never needed maintained roads. Who’s to say modern paved roads are even a good thing? Think of all the city critters (or pigs) that are just a tank of gas away from your front door. Before the modern pavement machines bulk goods were transported to town and city centers by rail and water. Early autos could drive nearly anywhere and be loaded with enough provisions to keep country folks in the sticks for a long time. We don’t need their f’n roads…Never did before. We need more sensible automobiles and the return of rail freight, not more retarded “rail trails” for sneering hippies.

  6. I lived on a private dirt road that was owned by the homeowners who lived on it. The ruts would get so bad in places when it rained you needed 4WD and you might still have trouble. People would do little patches here and there, like someone with a tractor would grade it every now and then, add some more gravel, etc. It was still terrible most of the time. From time to time 99/100 owners would agree to some major repair or paving and the one holdout would prevent it. Wouldn’t allow an easement. This had gone on for decades and goes on to this day. I moved away after only 2 years. The road was a major factor.

    • Hi Anon,

      I don’t blame you. This happens quite a bit. Private roads are usually poorly maintained and are hell on vehicles. I grew up in the country and for the first six years of my life our road was privately owned and gravel (for about 1.5 miles) which was paid for by the homeowners. The gravel was constantly washed away by the rain and snow and soon it would resemble a mud pit. It was pointless to wash a car. It was covered in muck by the time one made it to the highway.

      None of us complained when the county came in to pave the road.

      The problem with privately maintained roads is that one is either charged for the upkeep from dues and/or tolls or the road rots because there is usually a few who don’t wish to contribute but are happily to accept the use of other people’s work and money.

      • My family cottage (on a lake) is on a private road. It actually works fine there. You maintain the section that crosses your land but it has to be passable. You do what you want to do so.

        Most have elected to pave their section (my late uncle owned a asphalt biz and paved most of those). Our families section has a mesh system a few inches in the ground since we decided to keep our section more “natural” (we have a wooded section).

        The mesh keeps it from turning into a muddy bog, holding the gravel and sand in place. It keeps people from driving fast (we have a long section where if it was paved, people would drive fast. It works well, it’s never a mess and requires little maintenance. The only section paved is the turnout for our driveway. Keeps the property looking rural rather than suburban which is what we are shooting for. The rare traffic goes by slowly except for the golf carts and atvs (which you can drive on the private road unlike a public one)so its not perfect.

        Now if it was a public road, they would come in and knock down a bunch of trees, make it wider than it needs to be and pave it, and it would be far less attractive.

      • I can show you public roads that routinely fall into such state of disrepair. The problem with roads, public or private, is that few bother to learn how to build one. It has to be higher than the surrounding ground, it has to be properly crowned to keep water from standing on it, and it has to have well maintained ditches to carry that water away. In a neighboring county, gravel roads are maintained by adding more gravel, instead of maintaining the profile mentioned above. Which means they constantly add more gravel, which washes off into the ditch, filling up the ditch, and preventing drainage that would help maintain the gravel on the road. In my county, profile is maintained and the there are very sound roads that so seldom need maintenance there is grass growing down the middle.
        My point being, you could probably have MUCH better private roads if funds to build and maintain public roads was not extracted before those private roads were built and maintained. Hell, you might even have enough funds on hand to pay for the stretch fronting the one who won’t pay. You have to realize that the state is for profit, with a gun pointed at your head. Take your pick.

        • I understand the “if gov’t never existed” argument and I like to think about those things. However, the situation I experienced was intractable. There were several owners who just liked to break balls. They liked the f’d up road. There was no convincing them. The only “private” scenario I could see working in this instance would be like an HOA where, as you agree contractually when buying in, when some “commons” needs repairs, they (the little gov’t like group/person who runs it) have it done and send you a bill that you are obligated to pay. Otherwise, you end up living with at least portions of the road looking like the lowest common denominator owner’s vision of how the road should be in front of their property.

    • There is a region of the city where I live (Corona, CA) known as “the Overlook,” which is within city limits, but was subdivided in 1920s, before modern standards were adopted. Aside from some small lots, and lack of city sewers (although they do have city water), the road situation is a real mess.

      Those who wish to build there today are required to construct concrete curb & gutter and asphalt paving to city standard along their road frontage to centerline of right of way. But there are plenty of a) vacant parcels, and b) houses built before improvements to ROW were required as COP (condition of approval). City is required to maintain the public streets, which are a crazy quilt of asphalt paving, gravel, and washed out ruts.

      The situation is a major sore spot, and and a subject of spirited debate, as to how to bring streets & sewers up to modern standards without a) screwing the people who already live there, and have for some time, or b) effectively discouraging, by making it prohibitively expensive due to city assessments, to develop remaining vacant parcels. We shall see what happens…

  7. Well, there is no doubt that if one allowed the private sector to maintain roads and create tolls to preserve said roads a lot less driving would take place. By the government controlling the industry on road building and maintenance people don’t realize the actual costs of maintaining such a system. Personally, I would have no problem paying a toll to use a road. I understand one must upkeep and this cannot be done for free. What I do have a problem with is paying federal taxes, state taxes, gasoline taxes, and then a toll to drive on that same road.

    • RE: “What I do have a problem with is paying federal taxes, state taxes, gasoline taxes, and then a toll to drive on that same road.”

      No doubt. Add parks and park shelters to that. And, for a time Iowa even tried fees for using a public boat ramp. I was glad that didn’t last long.

      OT: Pentera the homesteader says her Walmart in (NC?) & a friend’s Walmart in VA are placing limits on the number of items people can buy at one time. One store limits All purchases to 99 items while another 120 items, or something like that.

      Is this Corporatism rationing in action? I’m trying to see what the motivation is for Walmart. Slowing the look of empty shelves? It just doesn’t make a whole lotta sense.

    • Hi, RG,
      Here in California, we pay the highest fuel taxes in the country, specifically to fund construction of public highways. Where I live, in western Riverside County, voters overwhelmingly approve, and reapprove, an additional $0.005 general sales tax, which is required to be used exclusively on highway construction and maintenance.

      But, it is still not enough, due to the explosion in population of (mainly) those (raising own hand) fleeing high cost areas such as Orange County, where the real estate prices will take your breath away. We are talking two million people here, in the last 40 years, in Riverside County alone,. And then there is San Bernardino County…

      So, we now have hybrid system, where considerable new highway construction is built as toll lanes, but state law requires (IIRC) there always be a freeway (i.e. free to travel, paid for by your tax dollars)..

      • Hi Turtle,

        The hybrid system is pretty much expanding everywhere. The government has established tolls roads around the entire DC Metropolitan area down I-95 and are currently building them on I-66. They get us coming and going. I have used the “express lanes” several times over the years. The tolls are based on the amount of traffic that are using the toll lanes. The point of the lanes is to maintain a constant traffic speed of 60 mph. When traffic begins slowing, due to volume, they increase the rates so those who don’t want to pay jump back on the highway. Around here we refer to them as Lexus Lanes because it is mainly the wealthy that can afford to pay the extra $12, $25, or $40 to get home quicker.

        • Hi, RG.
          >The tolls are based on the amount of traffic that are using the toll lanes.
          Yes, exactly. “Congestion pricing,” which was pioneered on SR91 through Santa Ana Canyon, referenced above.

          FWIW, being a tightwad, I have *NEVER* used the toll lanes, being a (more or less) “working class” kind of guy, i.e., I work for a living, or did, being mostly retired now.

          >Lexus Lanes
          I have heard that expression here, as well.
          Never owned a Lexus, although I have owned several BMW 3 series (“ultimate driving machines(?)”) and a FIAT 131 (“world rally champion”), years ago.

          • Well, I own the cheaper version of a Lexus…her sister the Toyota. 🙂 I have used the toll lanes before because it really depends on where I need to be and if the cost is worth it. It irks the hell out of me of having to pay more when I already pay enough in taxes, but if I can get somewhere an hour or so sooner, I will pony up the dough. It would help if Metro area just stopped adding additional housing, which always equates to more cars and not enough streets.

            • It irks the hell out of me of having to pay more … , but if I can get somewhere an hour or so sooner, I will pony up the dough.

              I think that’s called the “free market,” RG.
              I could be wrong, though. 🙂

              • It would be the free market if I wasn’t being nickeled and dimed to death by my government who has decided not only to charge me for the use of the slow lanes through state and gasoline taxes, but then has the audacity to charge me for the use of taxpayer funded tolls lanes on top of it. Anything involving government is ever “free” or a “market”. It is only forced monopoly.

        • The HOV lanes turned express toll lanes on I395, I495, and I95 down to Fredericksburg are privately held by an Australian company called Transurban, the right of way having been purchased from the State of Virginia in return for cut of the proceeds for the general fund. While some of the remaining toll revenue pays for maintenance, the lion’s share goes to fund Australian and Canadian pension plans who own stakes in the road project.

          Maryland taxpayers take note — your RINO Governor wants to welcome the racket into your state as well.

          • Transurban is a leech. They want to toll every street, road and path in Australia and use cameras to charge citizens to walk across the road to talk to their neighbours. I stay off their roads because the speed limits are never over 80 mph. And most frequently at 60 kph. If they make an appearance in your town, feel free to chase them out at gunpoint.

            • Transurban has been very aggressive about moving into the Washington DC area and buying the reversible HOV lanes for conversion to tolled express lanes. HOV use is still free, IIRC … for now.

              Much of the beltway on the VA side of DC has been assimilated, but they are just now moving into Maryland with the scheme.

            • Keep in mind companies like that are just cronies. They are in no way representative of free market or private roads. It’s government corporate partnership. A private company with the power of government to fleece people.

              In the old days of private roads another company would build a parallel road if the price was too high. These crony government contracts forbid alternatives from being built. Government isn’t allowed to and government can’t give permission for another private company to.

              • >In the old days of private roads another company would build a parallel road
                Sure, assuming there is adequate right of way.
                However, in many instances, ROW is a scarce resource, either due to natural features (traversing a canyon, or a mountain pass), or due to existing built up areas which would make it prohibitively expensive to acquire the ROW for a parallel highway.

                In those cases, he who gets there first has a natural monopoly, and is unlikely to be displaced, except by force, or threat of force (i.e., government decree).

                • That example exits, the bridge between Michigan and Canada.

                  Seems to work out okay, but the government of Canada is building a parallel bridge.

    • RG – I agree – this will mean people will drive around a lot less. But, wont that solve the problem the government keeps telling us we have – ie we drive around too much !!

      So they create “free” roads (out of taxes ofcourse), therefore people drive (perhaps more than they would if they had to pay per use) and then they tax people more to restrict their use of those very roads !! People just dont get what a con it is !

  8. The roads around my rural land, to which I will be moving, ARE privately maintained. Yes, they are dirt roads, mostly, though some do elect to pave portions of them.

    People DO have an incentive to maintain the roads there: The need to drive on them. So, they get out there periodically with their privately owned tractors and do some grading, leveling and repairing. Anytime we see it, someone remarks “But who will fix the roads?!”

    So shall I become road maintenance when I move out there, no government to be found.

      • That’s correct, Publius.

        I might be sick in the head, but I actually can’t wait to get on my tractor and maintain/improve some roads! And people won’t try and stop me! They might actually be grateful instead!

        • Hi BaDnOn,

          Have you grown up in the country by chance? There was a time and place where people were once grateful when someone was giving them a helping hand, unfortunately over the years gratefulness has turned into entileness. They will happily allow you to pave and fix the roads and most won’t even stop to say thanks. It will be your gas, your time, and your money. Don’t expect the neighbors to stop in and hand over a few bucks (or even a lemon cake) to assist on the wear and tear that your tractor is taking. You will hear about it though when there is a large pothole that hasn’t been fixed! 😉

            • LOL. No doubt. A lot of the people that are moving to the country are former city folks or those who need a second “getaway” house. It usually isn’t the people who have been there all their lives. Their attitudes are very different, and they have a tendency to suffer from having alligator arms.

              • >former city folks
                No, RG, they are *still* city folks.
                Except now, they have a “place in the country.” 😉

                Sometimes, you can see them jogging on country roads. Farmers don’t jog, generally speaking.

                And then, of course, you have the flip side.
                City dwellers with tricked out 4x4s which never have been, and never will go, off the pavement.
                Nary a scratch in the glossy paint job, nor a speck of dust. Expensive “road grader” tires with custom rims, lift kits, and 4 or 5 shock absorbers per wheel. Yeah, buddy.

                [The only V8 I ever owned was a *thrashed* IH 4×4. IH 304, 2bbl Holley, 3 speed stick, 2 speed transfer case, manual hubs. Old government truck, blue spray can paint job over government gray by previous owner. Lots of fun. :)]

          • Hey Raider Girl,

            From what I hear, out there it is customary to give the “road maintenance crew” a buck or two when you pass. I find it of no concern, because, even if no one lived out there besides me, I’d likely be doing the same job. Might be a little more wear due to others, but not a lot.

            Most everything I’ve done of value in my life has been my gas, my time and my money, haha.

            Where I grew up was what you might call “semi-rural”. It was county land, and there were plenty of dirt roads. There were a lot of asshole city rejects, though, so I’m used to that. 😉

            There are always parasites and vampires. Everywhere. I just think that there will be far fewer of them where I’m going. It will do me justice to not be in a city where they use the government to extract a “living” directly from my ass. 😉

    • Hi, BaDnOn,
      I live in town, on a paved public street, which is maintained by the city government.
      My sister lives in a gated community, where the paved streets inside the gates are considered private, and are maintained by the homeowners association.

      As a practical matter, it is not possible to engage an asphalt paving company to repave *only* your street frontage from your property line to centerline of the right of way. The (for profit, privately owned) paving company will require a scope of work sufficient to make mobilization worth their while, IOW, to make money on the job.

      Based on my experience (the street in front of my house) the minimum project size for an asphalt paving company appears to be one city block. So, if you want your street repaved (or slurry sealed, etc.) you are going to have to co-operate with *all* of your neighbors in order to get the job done.

      As far as I can see, it makes no difference if that “co-operation” is called “municipal government” or “homeowners association.” Either way, it is a form of government, and necessarily involves at least a minimum of coercion, in order to compel potential “free riders,” who want the benefit without paying their share of the cost, to pay up. Call it “taxes,” or “association dues,” it comes to the same thing. No free rides, and TANSTAAFL.

      Same principle applies to community water and sewer systems, as far as I can see, as well as trash pickup, the latter especially in urban and suburban areas, where sanitation is a major public health concern. Yersinia pestis is a whole lot more deadly than COVID-19.

      • Turtle,

        This is why I’m exiting the city stage.

        We will have our own septic systems, so will not need the sewer.

        We will have our own water collection, purification and distribution systems.

        We will have much less trash due to the nature of self-sufficient farming practices. The trash we do produce will be reused/recycled in some way, or at very least, burnt. So, no trash collection service necessary.

        All our base will belong to us.

        Even the fire department out there is voluntary. Something like $100 a year for them to be at your beckon call.

        As far as paving the road, if my neighbors and I rent the requisite equipment and pave the road ourselves, or even if I just do it myself as a labor of love, that isn’t really “government”, is it?

        I don’t count mutual cooperation as government. As far as “free riders”, it is not my concern. They might be paving their own roads, and should I pass through there, we’ll be on an even keel. Not enough traffic out there to worry about it, anyway.

        • >This is why I’m exiting the city stage.
          Good for you, BaDnOn.
          We should all have choices, IMHO.
          I suppose there are those who actually prefer living in high density environments (NYC, etc.) although it is certainly not my cuppa tea.
          One size definitely does *NOT* fit all. Busybodies are welcome to mind their own GD business, and not mine, or anyone else’s..

          For me, as with so many others, the suburban SFR on 7500 sf represents an acceptable compromise. I *insist* on a back yard, with room to plant some vegetables if I so choose (fresh tomatoes!), but realize I will never be anything close to “self-sufficient.”

          When I was young, we lived in Plainsboro, NJ, which at that time was very rural and agricultural. Own well and septic was the norm. In those days, in that place, even those with non-agricultural jobs were likely to be serious gardeners. Full basements provided ample storage space for home canned vegetables and fruits.

          Of course, when the power lines go down in an ice storm (which they will), those without backup generator will not be able to pump well water, and the oil fired furnace (a “modern” convenience) will probably be inop as well

          >All our base will belong to us.
          Good stuff, and I wish you success.

          >trash we do produce will be reused/recycled
          I wish I could do a better job of that where I live. I have tried composting green waste, but so far have failed, because the climate is arid. It really requires moisture to break down organics, as far as I can tell, and natural moisture is in short supply here, most of the time. For now, I have given it up as a bad job, but may try again in future, with a re-thinking of

          >Even the fire department out there is voluntary.
          That is normal in rural areas, and even small cities. To this say, AFAIK, the city of Princeton, NJ, where I was born, has an all volunteer FD.

          All volunteer FD would not work where I live, because fit young men, prime candidates for the Fire Brigade, are likely to be working far out of town on any given day, earning a living at a physically demanding job. IMO, fire fighting is a *PRIME* candidate for privatization (which it once was, from what I have read, with private companies competing for business in cities), but GFL with that in any place which already has a unionized, tax funded FD.

          Take care, and BOL in your endeavor…

          • Hey Turtle,

            Thanks for that.

            There are certainly people who like living the high density areas. That’s quite alright and so be it. They can remain there. I just do want to be on the hook for their expenses/shortcomings.

            “…When the power lines go down in an ice storm (which they will), those without backup generator will not be able to pump well water, and the oil fired furnace (a “modern” convenience) will probably be inop as well.”
            Luckily, we probably won’t have to worry about too many ice storms. There will be no power lines, anyway. All solar and wind, done the RIGHT way, though we will be incorporating locally generated hydrocarbons as well.

            Our water will come from the sky, the way Zeus intended. 😉

            All this talk is getting me anxious to get started.

            • >Our water will come from the sky, the way Zeus intended. 😉

              Be sure it still belongs to you, once it has fallen on “your” property. As you no doubt know, there are those who would steal your rain water, and prevent you from planting the seeds of your own produce, among other things. 🙁

              Of course, if you are far enough out in the country, who the F* is going to know? Sounds to me that is where you will be…

              >All this talk
              Git ‘er done, man!
              A lot less talk, and a lot more action, right? 🙂

            • Are you installing a cistern? I always thought that was a great idea and learned about them while touring the Caribbean. It makes so much sense. One doesn’t have to worry about their water being mixed with the runoff of fertilizer and other ground chemicals.

              I am determined to install one in the FL home.

              • RG,

                Yes, or several of them. Three 2,500 gallon tanks, initially. Perhaps there will be smaller tanks as needed for tree irrigation.

                And yes! A big part of the draw is the quality of the water. Also, why the fuck not?! Not catching and using rainwater seems 1) Stupid and perplexing, 2) An affront to the deity of your choosing and 3) necessitates a lot of water processing.

                I look forward to it as here in Az, I’ve ALWAYS lived where there is “hard water”, i.e. it’s filled with dissolved solids that make soaps nearly useless, make your hair crunchy, taste like hell, and leave residue all over everything.

                Also has the benefit of not being polluted with whatever old pipes and runoff might add, yes.

                • Do be aware that rainwater does in fact condense around particulate matter, such as fly ash, dirt, and not too long ago, fallout from atmospheric nuclear bomb tests. Cistern water is pretty good, buy still should be filtered.

                • Morning BadDnOn!

                  I am in the process of rigging up a rain-catch system as well – though it’s for the chickens and ducks. However, I think (like you) that it’s smart to rig one up for people, too. We have a well – but it takes electricity to run the pump. I like having fallback alternatives.

                  • Excellent, Eric! Go for it! There’s a well out by my land, too. You can fill up for a small donation. That will be our alternative, or perhaps, used to get us going.

          • You should get a composting system- the large drum type are really nice- they maintain the moisture and the fermentation temperature, they keep the smell down, and you can easily rotate them to make the process as complete as possible. Very nice option for the organics. I’ve seen them made from old 260 gallon bulk oil tanks, but the big plastic drums are the cat’s ass.

            • Ernie,

              The “cat’s ass” is a good thing, right? Like the “bee’s knees”?

              We do have plans for composting. So many good suggestions from people. Should be some delightful experimentation.

    • I don’t want to pick on you, but I’ve read several references to “dirt roads” in this section, and then referring to gravel on them. Dirt roads and gravel roads are NOT the same thing. Many years ago, many of the rural roads were dirt, as in NO GRAVEL. They required regular maintenance, more often than gravel, and may not be passable during Spring thaw, but otherwise were functional.

  9. I remember a picture ‘meme’ before memes were big about a natural deer path in the woods. The caption read something like about how deer must be using the government to build their own roads now.

    I thought it was humorous. And I’m sure roads were mentioned by Murray Rothbard in his book For A New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto. I’ll have to reread that book.

    I will also read Against the State: An Anarcho-Capitalist Manifesto by Lew Rockwell again. I’m sure they mentioned roads.

  10. What about eminent domain over our bodies? Who owns our flesh and skin if they can force you to take a jab of experimental government seminal fluid or lose your job… serf.

  11. “Is government necessary for commerce to exist?”

    You’d be surprised at how many would answer “yes” to that question Eric. If you heard the Brexit debate here – the biggest argument was without the EU, its bureaucrats and endless rules (like hundreds of pages defining what a banana is), we simply wouldn’t be able to trade with Europe, or even the rest of the world was the argument !! And half the country believed it !!

  12. I’m working on a project, producing videos explaining the Kentucky state constitution and posting them online. Last night I came across one section regarding lotteries. Here’s the relevant text: “Section 226 originally prohibited lotteries, which once funded schools, libraries, hospitals, churches, and roads in nineteenth-century Kentucky but by the time of the constitutional convention had fallen into disrepute.” So is there a voluntary way to fund roads? Yes, it’s called a lottery. AKA the stupidity tax. But it’s voluntary, nobody twists your arm or holds a gun to your head to make you buy tickets.

    History is never taught correctly in schools, that’s probably one of our biggest problems. Everybody is taught about the first transcontinental railroad, which was built using land stolen by the government (often at gunpoint) from the natives. Nobody is taught about a subsequent transcontinental railroad that was built on land peacefully and voluntarily purchased from the natives by private companies. Government screws up everything it touches.

    • “using land stolen by the government (often at gunpoint)” and often pulling the trigger, very often. Not to mention that the Union Pacific was federally subsidized, while the Northern railroad wasn’t, and STILL was on the heels of Union Pacific in the cross country race.

  13. Perhaps many don’t, but there is a reason that upon making a purchase, I thank the person I purchased from, as they thank me for making it. For providing a product I was perfectly willing to purchase, at the price they needed to keep that product available, and make a profit. When “purchasing” a product of government, guns are held to heads of “buyers”, and neither the “seller” nor the “buyer” exchange pleasantries.
    What was the market force behind the building of the interstate highway system, that put much of the far more efficient, but slower railway system out of business? Built upon property taken at gunpoint, with funds taken from the public at gunpoint. Here’s a clue. If threatening people’s lives is required, its probably not in our best interest to begin with.

  14. Interesting article. Would I be correct in assuming that in a system of privately owned roads there would actually be an incentive to having better built and maintained roads? I remember that bridge in Philadelphia that collapsed a while back, the money for replacement existed but they spent the money elsewhere and an inspector declared the bridge “fit for purpose of use”; OOPS. This is but a small part of the macrocosm we exist in and I don’t know what the solution to the worlds problems are but I’m pretty sure that anyone who thinks the solution to them is Government is even dumber than I am.

    • I’d argue that you would have both–which is a good thing–better built, better maintained and also lesser quality and maintenance. The reason for this is competition. Sometimes you may pick the slower, lower quality road. Other times you may pay the price for the higher quality road.

      Competition in everything offers more choices. If we lived in a free market, who knows what affordable options we’d have that could possibly bypass roads altogether in some instances.

    • I also remember the I-35 bridge in Minnesota collapsing in 2007. I’m willing to bet it was decay and/or a lack of maintenance and bureaucracy BS. There are reasons why my ass tightens up when I drive across bridges, especially the ones I drive over in Akron, OH. LeBron’s lovely hometown.

      I physically run along paths here a lot, and some go under these bridges. It is a matter of time before one falls. Especially that really long and high one that goes over a valley…

    • Hi Landru,

      Thanks – and (per this): “Would I be correct in assuming that in a system of privately owned roads there would actually be an incentive to having better built and maintained roads?”

      The same incentive that prompted Henry Ford to build a better car (the Model T) and for a restaurant to not poison its customers and a carpenter to not build a shoddy house…

      • Hi, Eric,
        Where I live, the center toll lanes on SR91 through Santa Ana Canyon
        were built by a private consortium based in Newport Beach (a.k.a. New Porsche Beach). I conjecture the “movers and shakers” thereof saw themselves as the potential automobile counterparts of the California Big Four who made vast fortunes in western railroads in the 19th century.

        It didn’t work out that way. The private consortium (the “free market ” solution, based upon a government granted monopoly of the only available right of way, the median of the existing freeway) built the toll road, charged whatever the market would bear. They went broke, and the government took over the toll lanes.

        SR91 is one of the most heavily travelled, and heavily congested, highways in the U.S. There *are* people who will pay to not sit in traffic. “Congestion pricing” means the amount charged is variable, depending on volume of traffic on the adjacent freeway lanes.

        However, as a profit making enterprise, it failed in this case, despite the fact that the operators had a monopoly, and thus no competition, at least as far as “pay to drive” is concerned. The tolls charged by the private entity were not regulated by the government.

        I suppose there are those who will argue that the freeway lanes represent “unfair competition” to the toll lanes. I do not buy that argument. In any case the freeway lanes were built using our tax dollars. Since we, the taxpayers, paid for them, they belong to us, and state law says we have the right o use them, free of charge.

        Wikipedia has a series of articles which trace the development of highways in the U.S., from the early “automobile trails” (Old Spanish Trail, Lincoln Highway, Arrowhead Trail, etc.) to the numbered highway system (get your kicks on Route 666) to the federal Interstate Highway System we know today.

        As most people know, the Interstate Highway system was advocated by President General Eisenhauer as a military necessity, he having witnessed the efficacy of such a high speed automobile highway network in a European country in which he had previously spent some time.

    • It’s hard to imagine the world without government roads, because it would be different. One thing that markets do, and governments don’t, is provide alternatives, and the same would happen with transportation.

      Given the huge costs, I’d assume we’d have fewer roads, and more alternatives. The Model T was good at driving rutted, muddy dirt roads, libertopia cars probably would as well. Maybe trains would connect some areas to others, and you’d drive onto a car transport train to go between them, or maybe people would fly more. Without the ability to compete, we have no way of knowing what could have been.

      • Hi OL,

        You are correct. Transportation would be different. It is unlikely most of the poor would be able to drive and it would force them into cities and near public transportation such as trains. I think we could get a pretty good feel based on what man developing countries are doing. If you look at places like India where the government really does not control or build the roads, you see the largest swath of people live near urban/metropolitan areas where walking or bicycling to the work or the store is part of their everyday life. People who live in rural areas would go into “town” monthly to get the supplies that they need, because the tolls would far out exceed what many could afford. The rich could travel because they can afford to.

        I am not stating that this is good or bad or that I even hold an opinion on it, but getting into your car to drive to the nearest coffee house or to visit a friend 15 minutes down the road would be a rare occasion not a weekly occurrence.

        • Hey RG,

          As I stated above, where I’ll be moving, the government does not maintain the roads. Private citizens do. No, you don’t have much paved out there, but it is nearly always driveable, sans after a heavy rain, perhaps, when you might need a 4×4 for some areas.

      • OppositeLock,

        More alternatives, yes! I’d argue that the huge costs are largely BECAUSE the government is involved, and it has a monopoly.

        “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

        I’ve argued for alternatives since I’ve been alive. Beyond fantastic flying cars, we’ve had flying rotorcraft for over 80 years. Also, hovercraft. I’ve been sitting on a hovercraft design for years, and hopefully build a prototype in a few more, since I’ll have requisite garage and equipment.

        With these, paved roads are unnecessary, yet they have never been widely adopted. Perhaps it’s time.


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