But Who Will Build the Roads!?

It’s common to see appeals to the status quo to justify theft, and those who do blithely assume that the status quo even works as advertised despite all evidence to the contrary. It’s like a slavery apologist responding to an abolitionist with, “why do you hate cotton, sugar, and tobacco?” One such example is featured below.

“Tell me, oh not so wise one, how would the gov’t pay for all the services that you use daily? how do they pay for the roads you drive on? the mail delivered to your home? the military that made sure you can say what you want about the government in the 1st place and not worry about going to jail over it?”

To which Tothe responds: Abolitionists needn’t to explain to you how these various services will be provided without slavery to argue that slavery is wrong. Likewise, libertarians don’t have to spell out in advance how roads, security, and postal service will be provided without government. We can, however, describe some of the ways they were provided, are being provided now, and could be provided in the future anyway if you too will do the courtesy of reading up on what is referenced and checking out the more substantive treatises linked below.

Historically roads had been provided voluntarily. Before towns and housing developments were built, roads were laid out. These were funded by the people who own the land and wish to develop it as an investment to increase the value of the land to potential buyers. The current practice of ceding the roads to government maintenance does not mean this is the only or best method. It means costs are externalized through a bureaucracy and hidden from all parties directly involved, driving up costs and driving down quality. Roads and bridges have been provided privately, including the Lincoln and Dixie interstate highway networks crossing the US from Canada to Florida and coast to coast before the federal government managed any highways, and many bridges including the Bridge of the Gods on the Columbia River have been built by investors and private organizations.

It should also be noted, as Coralyn Herenschrict does, that political control over roads also breeds a host of its own inherent problems, most notably traffic stop violence.

The state acts as a monopoly road service provider. Submission to it is not voluntary. Thus, it can choose its own police traffic stop guidelines arbitrarily according to its own convenience and the self-interest of its agents. It can impose senseless road rules on all drivers by legislative fiat guided by special interest lobbying or legislative political expediency rather than common sense.

The results exhibit the same sort of concern for the public you experience from your cable TV company. Only here the cable guys have guns, badges, attitude, and authority over you.

In the context of any monopoly, there is simply no incentive to employ brains and common sense. Thus from neglect if nothing else, the state can and routinely does fall into the stupidest, most harmful approaches to road management. Simply because they are easier. None of the state actors involved in road management have any stake in outcomes. They bear no meaningful responsibility for the consequences of their decisions.

By contrast, private, competing businesses providing road service would face existential financial incentives to creatively and intelligently balance road safety, efficiency, and cost effectiveness to maximize overall driver satisfaction. The last thought that would cross businesspeople’s minds is violently threatening their customers with assault, imprisonment, or getting shot, as police now do every time they perform a traffic stop. The only threat private road providers would wield would be of forfeiture of a security deposit or revocation of future access permission.

Privatization of roads offers the only viable solution to traffic stop violence.  Police, courts, national defense and the like, could all be handled through competitive contractual arrangements as well.  The links are below.

See Also:

Ancapedia: Private Policing

Ancapedia: Private Dispute Resolution

Why Property: Defending a Free Society

Chaos Theory” By Robert P. Murphy

The Machinery of Freedom” by David Friedman