The Case Against Government Constructed Roads (Domestic Policy Essay, Fall 2013, PoliSci 102)

muhroads

As you were driving down the freeway to work, you ran over that same rough spot every morning to get off at your exit. Today is different; one of your tires had enough and blew out on you. As you are accepting the situation you are in, your mind starts to wander: “If only the roads were better constructed, that would solve part of the problem.” You pull over, get out and get your emergency gear, “I wonder who paid for this freeway anyway…” It hadn’t occurred to you at the time that part of the pay check you were making at the job you were driving to went to the very same road that partly caused your bad morning. You paid for it by being taxed. The solution to the degeneration of our roadways is the privatization of the funding of roads. The privatization of roads will provide more efficiency for the main source of transportation in America.

As it stands right now, the construction of roads is based on city, county, and state needs. The funding comes from the state budget which is paid for by American tax payers. During the emergence of the affordability of the automobile, in the 1920’s, America started to need national freeways which the Department of Agriculture took over. This was with the help of the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) which was created in 1924 to help the advancement of investors in the national freeway business to get these freeways built. The Great American Freeway System was eventually established by channels through the Department of Agriculture and the corporations that were supplying the materials and labor.

During this time, the average citizen was not particularly concerned with the freeways because their $250.00 car often times could not make it across country with the way they were built. The roads were often so horrible that you could barely drive on them as they were, and were rarely routinely maintained. Businesses should have invested in a consulting/planning department for their corporations. This would make it so the federal government would not have had to pass laws to regulate the freeway construction, planning (to include safety and directional signs) and maintenance of the freeways. Essentially, what the government has over the road infrastructure is a monopoly because of this. The corporations should have been held accountable by the consumer to maintain the roads that were being built, they would not have had to deal with the inconvenience of government planning, thus relieving the need for tax payers’ money to be used on public transportation. The government even got in the way during the 2011-2012 Holiday season in Los Angeles when Governor Jerry Brown needed to use his legislative powers to waive statutes of the law that were hindering the rebuilding process of an overpass that was damaged when a tanker truck exploded. This is just one example of how regulatory laws hinder the maintenance, and an example of why it is hard for the freeway system to technologically advance.

During modern times, people rely on their cars just as much as our ancestors valued their horses. The roads we drive on are how we get to work, drop off our kids at school, and see our family and friends. We rely on their advancement and success. One modern example of the success of the privatization of roads is The Toll Roads of Orange County. They were built during a time that the state budget was low and with virtually no tax dollars available. This proves that the state has the ability to coordinate roads being built without tax payer burden.

The state proved to be unessential in the creation of the California SR-73, and even though the state still provided the central planning and induced a toll on the road, it is one of the first steps into getting the government funding out of the construction of our beloved freeways. This type of privatization allows for investors and entrepreneurs to explore and test the way freeways are designed. We may even realize that we do not need freeways at all, and the exploration of the design of freeways could lead to the implementation of more efficient transportation systems via the consumer. The consumer funds the projects and gets the results. The key to freeway technological advancement is to eliminate the government third-party control to speed up the construction and induce routine, efficient, maintenance that caters to the consumers who use it.  This would mean, however, that the average citizen would have to be more involved in his or her local and state community if they wanted something done, which would not be such a bad thing. It would stop the media from skewing the public’s perception on the role the government has with our freeways.

The American media does not usually touch on this subject unless it has to do with a tax increase. CNN, Fox, and MSNBC often rally behind the government inclusion in the construction of our roads to make it “safer.” In fact, if you typed “roads taxes” into Google News, you will find that the majority of the articles that were written about roads and taxes were about tax increases, and sometimes hiding them as tolls. Tolls would be a great idea if the budget for the transportation was not in the “infinite” amount of money the government has to spend. If a toll was a way to make a profit and it benefitted the consumer because the road was more efficient due to better maintenance and technology advancement, then a toll would be a good idea, especially if there were other private roads competing to bring the price down. Some young people are starting to understand this concept in depth and standing up against the old-timer status quo. The younger the American is, the more skeptical he or she normally is of government endeavors such as our roads. This will lead to future policy changes, and hopefully take this government monopoly out of American culture.

The bigger picture of this issue is the amount of control our government has over the roads we use every day. The construction business could just as easily be a service like an electrical business. We are constantly plagued by inconvenience during our travels, whether it is a construction job moving slowly or a pot hole that has been there for over a year. The government has had control over the roads and freeways for far longer than most of us have been alive. The people who advocate government control over roads tend to think that no one else is capable of planning out road routes because the government has always been in control. Despite the fact that politicians constantly use the roads as a facade to raise taxes, people never question when their governments are engaging in these things because they believe it is a part of public works. Perhaps it is time for a new age of technological growth where the government takes a step back, and cuts transportation funding out of the budget.

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One response to “The Case Against Government Constructed Roads (Domestic Policy Essay, Fall 2013, PoliSci 102)

  1. In favor.

    I’m reminded of something Kevin Carson wrote, about how fuel taxes (the main source for Federal funds for road repair) are paid by all consumers of fuel, while 90% of all wear and tear on the interstate system is due to commercial trucking. This amounts to a subsidy to Wal-Mart, lowering the cost of long-distance transportation below the actual cost of maintaining the capital involved. Private road operators would have every right and reason to charge more for types of transport that wear more heavily on their property, and thus remove the perverse incentive to over-centralize.

    I’m also reminded of all the crying in England about “Ribbon development,” and how regulation is employed over there to prevent housing construction from simply following publicly-built roadways in narrow strips through undeveloped areas. They never consider that by making the taxpayer cover the cost of access to land, they are socializing part of the natural cost of construction. There would be no “ribbon development” problem if those who would engage in development and construction naturally were faced with constructing the access roads themselves.

    One suspects that even though confiscated private funds are used to pay for road construction and maintenance, and hired private firms can easily perform these tasks, the state has simply and gratefully latched onto the historical accident of its involvement in the construction of the highways we’re now stuck with (whether it was wise or unwise) as “proof” of its essential place in the economy.

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