Private roads – Random thoughts from my drive into work

Posted by Jason | Posted in Economics, Government | Posted on 09-02-2010

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The other day I posted a blog about the free market providing roads, police and fire services. You can read it here. While on my way to work this morning, I got to thinking about the roads again. Where I live, we just got a couple feet of snow, and we have more coming today. It has been 4 days since the snow came, but I still had a heck of a time getting to work. Half the roads are still covered, and now the snow is packed down and turning to ice. I’m not talking about side roads here. I’m talking about the main roads.

So, this got me thinking. How would this be treated differently if the roads were private? Well, as far as technology, let’s just say everything is the same, which if roads were private all these years, there would be much more advanced technology. I am assuming the same technology, but there would be different incentives. If you own a road, and you earn income from tolls or some other mechanism that is pay for use, you would make sure those roads were quickly cleared. If they weren’t, you’d lose money. How would you charge a toll if no one can drive on your road? Your entire business model depends on people driving on your road. You would have to get the roads cleared quickly, or suffer huge losses.

Government on the other hand doesn’t really have any great incentive to get the roads cleared. Yeah, they get around to it, but what’s the rush. They may have angry constituents, but by the time election day rolls around, that’s water under the bridge. They need a reason to justify their expanding budgets, so they can’t ignore the issue completely. On the other hand, if they take longer to clean the roads, they can say they needed more help. Then they have more reason for bigger budgets and more employees.

Again, just some thoughts I had on my way into work. This is by no means meant to be a great argument for private roads. Most people can’t comprehend how the private sector could provide roads and then bill for them, so we just stick with the crappy government system where they use road bills to rob us blind and give handouts to their buddies and union supporters.

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[...] roads are going to be an ongoing brain fart here. You can read previous posts on the subject here and here.  Almost every time I get in the car and deal with the frustrations of driving, I [...]

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