MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Before Public Roads, Private Companies Did It Better | The Daily Bell

Posted by M. C. Fox on August 16, 2018

But you can bet that it would be more efficient, since companies, investors, and users would be responsible. The government doesn’t have much incentive to keep costs down, improve road conditions, reduce traffic, or serve market demands.

https://www.thedailybell.com/all-articles/news-analysis/before-public-roads-private-companies-did-it-better/

By Joe Jarvis

Even the U.S. Department of Transportation has to admit, the first major U.S. roadways were not built by the government:

The privately built Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike Road was the first important turnpike and the first long-distance broken-stone and gravel surface built in America according to formal plans and specifications. The road’s construction marked the beginning of organized road improvement after the long period of economic confusion following the American Revolution.

The road opened the territory northwest of the Ohio River and provided cheap transportation between the coast cities and the new Republic’s “bread basket” region surrounding Lancaster.

In the early days of the United States, the government certainly saw the benefit of roads. But most politicians didn’t think it was their place to raise taxes to pay for them.

State governments laid claim to all unoccupied land. So state governments would grant charters to private companies to build, improve, and maintain roads on “public” land.

The companies sold stock in the routes to investors, which funded the development of these roads. Tolls made the companies profitable so they could pay back investors.

The government’s only role was granting ownership of certain public pathways to these companies, under the condition that they improve them…

Toll roads solved many of these problems. The roads naturally served larger population centers, since that is where there would be enough travelers to pay back the tolls. And they were ultimately paid for by the people who traveled the roads or bought the goods moved on the roads.

The governments in the U.S.A. were actually not responsible for building roads until “1891, when New Jersey became the first state to take responsibility at the state level for improving roads and formed a State Highway Department. Massachusetts followed this example in 1892, and by 1917 all the states had adopted similar programs.”

But the truth is, states only started caring about roads when everyone else stoppedcaring. Railroads and canals became the transportation of choice during the Industrial Revolution. And roadways would remain lightly traveled until the automobile became popular.

In the Future Who Will Build the Roads?

Could you imagine a post-road world? Not a Post Road for mail, a world after roads.

The U.S. government’s vast investment in highways has really altered the development of transportation.

It is hard to tell what better methods of transportation would be invented, used, and improved if government funded roads were not available.

But you can bet that it would be more efficient, since companies, investors, and users would be responsible. The government doesn’t have much incentive to keep costs down, improve road conditions, reduce traffic, or serve market demands.

And then in a post-road world, roads could be reclaimed for walking, bike riding, and short distance travel with less serious vehicles. Think of how wonderful cities and neighborhoods could become. Think of the vast improvement in the quality of life. Think of the reduction of roadway deaths and injuries.

Be seeing you

Tardis

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