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It’s hard to tell if it actually is the Onion or not. HT to Michael Thompson. 

In The Know: Should The Government Stop Dumping Money Into A Giant Hole?

7 Responses to “If You Love America …”

  1. Martin says:

    Hey,

    I got a question I hope you can answer for me: What’s the alternative to having the government handle infrastructure? I can’t quite imagine how it would work in a fully privatized form – charity organisations, coalitions of private companies charging people per mile or something completely different? I think in the olden days people build paved roads individually, but this seems pretty ineffective compared to having people/corporations who specialize in road building, and I think I remember a race to build railroad tracks across America in the 19th century, but wasn’t those governmental contracts? Anyway, hope you can answer me either in the comment sections, point me to some reading material or perhaps include it in a future post, as it really annoys me that I can’t come up with a good answer for this when arguing capitalism and the free market with people. By the way, sorry for any spelling errors etc. – english is my second language so a there’s probably a couple of them in there somewhere 🙂

    Regards from Denmark,
    Martin

  2. Harry says:

    Martin, one of the first great roads near where I live is the Pennsylvania Turnpike, built by private money, financed by bonds. Who knows how expensive such a project might be, now that our country has declared war on bondholders.

    I will concede that an important role of our local government is to maintain our roads, and here in Pennsylvania our local government receives an ample reimbursement from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from the liquid fuels tax, which is paid for by everyone who buys fuel in Pennsylvania. Even though, in my opinion, our municipality receives more than it needs, and then wastes the excess, this system of taxation for our roads is about as fair as possible.

    In the 19th century in America, the federal government granted right-of-way to railroads for a low price, and at the same time gave settlers 150 acres free to build their lives in the prarie. The idea was that it was not Andrew Jackson’s land, nor was it the land of the descendants of King George, or Louis XVI, or Louis XIV, either. It wasn’t Nancy Pelosi’s land, or Barney Frank’s. Thomas Jefferson purchased much of it.

    From the American revolution to the present day, our country has enjoyed a system that has preserved, more or less, the idea that our people have a right to their property, and that the contracts they make with one another will be preserved under the rule of law, which our Constitution provides.

    As a result, we have been a free people, and have flourished.

    The question is not capitalism versus socialism, or whatever terms in which political philosophers care to frame the debate.

    The question is whether you, or your friends who talk of the evils of the railroads in America, want to be free. Once one has settled that, then one can discuss the merits of the Danish health care system, and whether it is applicable to South Carolinians, and whether the European Union should decide this.

    In this blog are writings of Frederic Bastiat, which is my best suggestion to get started in reading. I’d also recommend Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom, and then move on to his other books.

    There are some infrastructure projects which only the government can handle, and those should be financed with debt to cover the life of the project: a 30-year road should be financed with a 30-year bond.

    This does not mean that the government should get into the road business, where six people are watching while one person is working.

  3. Gabe says:

    Martin –

    Read mises.org and lewrockwell.com.

    Gabe

  4. Martin says:

    Thanks to the both of you 🙂

  5. wintercow20 says:

    Martin,

    Thank you for your thoughtful question. I think the issue of 19th century American development has been handled well by Burt Folsom (sp?). One wonderful lesson is the story of the Vanderbilt shipping enterprise as it competed against his government subsidized rivals. More to your point, most RR were publicly funded at the time, but one of the most successful, if not the only profitable one, was a Railroad that was built without a single dollar of federal aid, nor any help in condemning/purchasing land. Folsom writes extensively about that.
    You might also wish to read David Friedman’s the Machinery of Freedom – in it he builds up the defense of commercial society from the simplest and most basic defense of property rights (that which I produce is rightly mine) to the more complicated areas of private provision of infrastructure and even national defense. I prefer this introduction to Mises and others because it is simply written, is honest about its shortcomings, and is a quicker read.
    All the best,
    Mike

  6. […] And the kicker, for a system that has 280,000 passengers PER DAY, I am told (need help finding the data here) that the rider fares cover only 50% of the costs of the railroad operation – the rest comes from subsidies – including diverting tolls from already paid off New York Bridges and Tunnels to keep the unions railroad afloat. If passenger rail cannot work in a place like New York, it is a hole bigger than any you could imagine just about anywhere else. Can’t wait for all of that light-rail construction around the U.S, who is going to pay for that? Oh wait, I should just shut up and do my patriotic duty to continue shoveling earnings into the hole to benefit a few hole diggers. […]

  7. Harry says:

    Wintercow is a clever perfesser, assigining extra reading to students of railroads, economic freedom, et cetera.

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