Privatize streets and roads?
Ayn Rand told Alvin (Future Shock) Toffler that private persons and private companies should own and keep up all streets and roads. The government, she said, should worry only about using force when it had to, against those who wrongfully use force against others. That’s what police, armies, and law courts are for.
Obviously she never said that people would neglect to plow the streets in the winter, or keep bridges up. So why would anyone think that they would? Because they forget that public streets, roads, and bridges do not spring into being out of nothing. Someone builds them.
History of road building
For most of human history, governments built roads. Kings and
emperors built the most famous and longest-lasting roads. Ancient Rome’s
roads are the most famous.
All roads lead to Rome.
Those roads did not come out of nothing. Roman magistrates built the first of Rome’s roads. For much of their history,
local townsfolk kept up the roads that passed through their towns. At
other times, an ambitious Roman Senator (e.g., a young Julius Caesar)
would volunteer to keep up a road. Keeping a long road in good
repair earned him votes. That system hasn’t changed much since then.
Details have changed, but fundamentals have not.
But people have almost completely forgotten that private enterprise and private initiative
once played prominent roles in road-building. The Industrial Revolution
in England might never have been, except that several Turnpike Trusts formed to build long-haul roads in England. In America, the first good long-haul roads were also private turnpikes. The first of these was the Lancaster Turnpike in southeastern Pennsylvania.
More recently, Murray Rothbard (no friend of Ayn Rand), in For a New Liberty (1973), wrote the most comprehensive treatment yet of how to build, run, and price roads privately.
Read the rest of the article (see link below) for details, and some exquisite ironies about all the things that critics of Ayn Rand say are wrong with American road-building projects. Things that, in the Ayn Rand world, would not happen.
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