Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why Not Private Roads and Highways?

That is the question considered by my friend and colleague Tracy Miller. He discusses the economics and history of private roads, noting:
The paucity of private roads cannot be taken as proof that such roads would not be built in the absence of government subsidies. Few private highways exist because they cannot compete with government subsidized highways. Given the choice between paying a toll to drive on a private highway driving on a government highway at no charge, most drivers would rather drive on government highways than private highways, even if private highways were better quality and had less congestion.The result is a very inefficient system of roads and highways that are more costly than necessary with serious congestion problems in many cities.

Another economist who has written hundreds of pages on the issue of road privatization is Walter Block.


  1. "Why Not Private Roads and Highways?"

    Because the government has been in charge of them forever and change is scary and dangerous. Plus, you just can't rely on strangers to look out for your best interest.

  2. You are right that the fear of change is a big reason it is so hard to go back to a private entrepreneurial solution. That is an important reason why we should never charge the government with performing any task that can be produced via private production. As soon as the state takes it over, private production tends to get driven out, people get used to state provision and do not want to risk the unknown.

    It should also be noted that we do rely on strangers to serve our interests all the time. Whenever we purchase something on Amazon or buy anything on a cross-country trip we are trusting people we have never met and most likely will never see again to give us what we want in exchange for our money. Private road production and usage is not necessarily different.