I have heard many a citizen complain of the snow plowing in their neighborhoods — it takes them so long, they don’t finish the job, or the snow was piled up in an inconvenient place. Even during the spring, these streets are troublesome. We find ourselves dodging potholes and jostling over dangerous fissures that either bust our vehicles or earn a ticket from police.
Sadly, because a bureaucracy is in charge, if there is to be any hope of decent streets, we would need to vote in a representative who would press for improved infrastructure, which would inevitably mean raising taxes, without any certainty of improvement. Even with a wider budget, there is still no promise that the conditions of the streets will improve at all.
Libertarians have such a simple solution to all of these woes, and it’s only three words.
Imagine that one day a company rides into town, called the Jamestown Road company. It purchases every inch of pavement from Fairmount to Fluvanna Avenue from the city council and opens for business. What would our lives look like? It sure wouldn’t be a highway robbery.
Firstly, Jamestown Road company would provide much better and cheaper service than the crews subsidized by
extorted taxpayer dollars, because instead of the entire community subsidizing the streets in aggregate, every driver who uses the roads would directly pay the company for using them. Since there is now a direct relationship between customer and manager, all the company’s energy would be devoted to pleasing the customer.
Right now, the political body acts both as a middle man and a monopoly, both of which keep prices high and provide little incentive to actually deliver the best product, which are clean, safe roads. In the free market, economic self-interest would both drive Jamestown Roads’ prices as low as possible and provide the best service possible, as it would be competing with other road companies.
Let’s say the Mayville Roads company comes along, and they developed a super-plow that clears roads faster and more cheaply than Jamestown plowers. Unless Jamestown Roads reduced prices or innovated its plowers, it would be driven out of the market as residents move to Mayville, where the streets might be clean enough to eat your lunch of off.
Traffic jams would be a relic of the primitive age of government planning. An excess of traffic can be seen, from a free market standpoint, as unmet demand for traffic infrastructure that Jamestown Inc. would quickly and eagerly attempt to satisfy. the Jamestown Roads company would have fixed up the South Main Street bridge before the city maintainers had even set a jackhammer to the pavement. Ronald F. Kirby, transportation director for the Metropolitan Council of Governments, noted: “Too often in the public sector, the easiest thing to do is let things sit unresolved. The private sector is motivated by self-interest to resolve things quickly.” Peter Samuel even compares American traffic jams to Soviet grocery store lines, which suffered perpetual shortage due to the failure of the communist system.
The private ownership of roads would bring small businesses to the area. According to Mutualist Kevin Carson, the dominance of large, centralized corporations is owed partially to taxpayer-funded transportation. The cost of transportation rises with the scale of a company; therefore, small businesses would have the advantage. It would cost McDonald’s more money to plant a restaurant at a busy corner on Route 60 than it would for a family-owned furniture shop to open up on Barrett Avenue.
Free-market roads are so awesome, there would even be less crime on the streets. Avenues in private places, such as those in St. Louis, are reported to have less crime. Jamestown Roads might even go out of its way to hire private guards, who would patrol the streets and keep them free of drunks and miscreants, while leaving the rest of the customers to live their own lifestyles. I imagine driving into town on Route 60 and catching sight of a billboard that reads, “Jamestown Roads Inc. roads are guaranteed safe, day or night, or your money back!”
Privately owned roads would not fill every pothole or stop every snowflake from falling on the streets. But it would be an adventurous step toward a freer society — freer streets, freer wallets, and freer people.