There is a problem with the roads – and it isn’t just the potholes.
The fundamental problem is government.
Government roads are – like government schools – owned by the government, though both are financed by you and I, whether we like it or not. Even if we don’t use them, we are taxed to pay for them. But we enjoy no meaningful control over what we’re forced to finance.
Land is expropriated to accommodate the government’s schools and roads; the former owner “compensated” to whatever extent the government considers to be “fair” – irrespective of the cost to the former owner. The public is then permitted conditional use of the government’s property, which is very cleverly styled “public,” implying they are “owned” by everyone. Yet no one – except government – has any meaningful ownership claim over that which the government controls.
In this way, the people are fooled into believing they have gained something at no cost as opposed to paying a very heavy price for it. Former rights – including to travel, freely – turned into conditional privileges given (and withheld) at the pleasure of government.
But without government, some cry, there would be no roads!
This is like saying that without government, we’d have no food.
Interestingly, there were roads – and food – long before government began asserting control over them.
The difference being – when they are provided by people without the force of government involved – that no one is forced to pay for them and when someone chooses to pay for them, they enjoy the right to use them. Just the same as you have the right to eat the food you just paid for. No one would insist you must have a license to buy food and that you may only buy certain foods and then eat them in the prescribed manner (and quantity).
Well, actually, some (naturally, in government) are beginning to insist upon some of those things and the “public” begins to accept the impositions, having been habituated to the idea that “public” (i.e., government) is preferable to private – and that the “public” has an “interest” in laying down the various terms and conditions. The “public” being those in government who tell the “public” – that’s everyone else – what they’ll be allowed to do and punished for if they don’t do it.
Some say that if government didn’t own the roads there would be abusive roads controlled by “greedy” private interests. This is a hilarity on par with The Chimp’s talk the other day, about the ” . . .the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq – I mean Ukraine.”
Government roads are tax roads – in serially abusive ways. There are the taxes styled “vehicle registration” and “licenses” – which one must buy in order to be allotted the conditional privilege to use the roads. Interestingly, the “licenses” are not indices of competence to drive. They are “papers” – the government’s way of ear-tagging everyone who drives, on and off the road. You need a driver’s license to buy alcohol – another conditional privilege – even if you walk to the store. And to be allowed to do myriad other things that used to be rights and which have nothing to do with driving. But government ownership of the roads makes having a “license” to use them a de facto necessity as well as a de jure method of identifying and tracking everyone, on and off the roads.
Without government roads, there wouldn’t be government IDs. Nor “checkpoints” at which you are forced to produce them.
Then there are the other taxes government applies to punish those who use the roads – including what are styled “tickets,” those demand-notes for money, issued at gunpoint (always implicit in these transactions, whether the gun is actually drawn or not) which, if not paid, results in the loss of one’s privilege to use the roads one paid to use. These ticket-taxes are different from whatever fees a privately owned road’s owner might charge in that they are both arbitrary and extortionate. A private road-owner could not get away with arbitrarily applying extortionate fees because people would be free to not use his roads, just as a privately owned restaurant cannot just charge customers whatever it likes, treat them abusively and then pad the check with various add-ons – because the restaurant’s owner cannot force customers to eat at his restaurant.
Nor can he seize anyone’s land, raze their home and build his restaurant upon it.
This is something only government can do. Or rather, do legally. When it is done privately, it is called theft. It is no different when government does the same. It is merely given a different name – “eminent domain” – and anointed with legality.
Privately owned roads would have to be built on land acquired by paying for it – from people willing to sell it. Is this such a terrible idea?
It’s true it might be harder to build – as James Brown put it – super highways, coast to coast – for the same reason it is harder for one man or a few men to kill millions of men. Government is very good at doing that, which it can do easily because it has a near-limitless supply of men it can use to do the killing. And make them pay for it, too. There is never a shortage of guns and uniforms – and prisons and even ditches, filled to overflowing with corpses – when government is involved in such things.
So, yes, there might not be superhighways, coast to coast. It might not be as easy to get anywhere. But it’d be freer to get everywhere, because you wouldn’t be forced to pay for it – and you wouldn’t require anyone’s permission to do it, either.
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