10A086 Roads Without Government by Jim Davies, 11/28/2010    

Freak weather on Friday in New Hampshire brought some nasty road accidents, including this multi-truck pile-up on the I-89 where it crests some high terrain and pierces low clouds; freezing, heavy rain coated the surface with ice and even rescue workers could not walk without ropes. Happily nobody was hurt badly, but the chaos in snarled traffic must have brought fearful waste. Virtually all roads today are de-facto owned and operated by government, so we can wonder: after it has evaporated, who will run them and will they be safer?

They will of course be owned by real people and the associations they may form, for profit. As such they will seek to maximize customer satisfaction so as to maximize those profits, and the era of police harassment and inadequate surfaces and lanes will be over. If there is a demand for new roads, the market will provide them, for that is what markets do. I should caution though that by "demand" is meant: the wish, plus the money. Operators will furnish the facilities under contract, and customers (drivers) will pay to use them by tolls or period passes, etc.; today it's impossible to measure the true economic demand for particular roads because tolls are not generally charged and even when they are, there are alternative no-charge roads available, which distort any finding. Only in a free-market, zero government society can anybody actually know what roads are needed, and where. That's always one of the fatal flaws in socialism.

One aspect of satisfying customers will be to make the product safe; if that is neglected and a road gets known for killing drivers, the owner will soon find his revenues drop. So one of his actions will be to watch the weather forecasts and take appropriate action. In the case of this I-89 crash, "rain and ice" were predicted at least 12 hours before they struck, yet its surface was lethal. Nothing had been done to warn drivers or to sand the surface. Why would it? - nobody had any profit motive. Each rising generation of school children is taught that government provides roads, and that Authority is not to be questioned - but the insurance companies who'll pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair these trucks will not recover a red cent from the road operator, the DoT.

Gradually, road fatalities and injuries have both been falling and this page provides an update. The government spokesman, naturally, takes credit. Less is given to builders of tires, brake systems and vehicles, which are very much safer than they were even a few decades ago. The chances of being killed are now 1.13 per 100 million vehicle miles. Will they reach zero, in a zero government society? - of course not. Accidents do happen. The huge difference will be that in a ZGS, all the motives and incentives will work together to make them ever fewer; today, they work against that purpose. I've no idea how much lower that will bring the death rate, but no better arrangement is possible and every saved life is worth it.

Meanwhile there will be no DMV, nor its needless and wickedly deceptive ID cards masquerading as "driver licenses." That alone is enough to stimulate the saliva.

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