today the federal government owns and operates highways on which 40 thousand people die every year. Does it, as the owner of such highways, strive to minimize the danger of these highways, considering it lets 16 year old kids on the road i must use to get to work that was built with stolen property? If the highways were pirvately owned and operated, would competing highways strive for safer conditions? Would they do so for purely competitive reasons, where the drivers would be liable for their actions on the road, or would they do so to limit risk due to their liability for the purpose of lowering insurance premiums?
They would strive for safety becasue in the absence of safety, people wouldn't use their roads. In all liklihood private road owners would require drivers to agree to a waiver before allowing them to drive on their roads. If a road owner operated particularly dangerous roads, it's possible insurance companies might charge drivers higher premiums to use those roads. In any event the market would decide.
In all probability the market solution would be superior in terms of safety, traffic jams etc.
I don't really see it as fair to blame government ownership for highway deaths. There are a *lot* of idiots out there.
As a former truck driver I can tell you people will do completely stupid things to save a couple seconds on their trip that have no relationship to road safety.
I'm not advocating government monopoly ownership but blaming them for all the highway deaths is like blaming a bar owner for the actions of their patrons after they get a few drinks into them.
I'm just wondering how many of those 40k deaths could be attributed to driving too fast for existing conditions...
it's possible insurance companies might charge drivers higher premiums
my main interest is whether or not the cost of poor saftey conditions can be passed off to the road owners, not the drivers, in the form of insurance the road owner pays to protect him from liability for killing his customers by letting crazies on his roads
lojpre:it's possible insurance companies might charge drivers higher premiumsmy main interest is whether or not the cost of poor saftey conditions can be passed off to the road owners, not the drivers, in the form of insurance the road owner pays to protect him from liability for killing his customers by letting crazies on his roads
This is not a question that can be answered beforehand. The free market would decide. If a sufficient number of drivers refused to sign a waiver, and the only way that road owners could gain business was to accept responsibility for accidents, then what you suggest would happen. However, there would presumably be a trade-off. i.e higher use charges. So the market would decide between: 1) Road owners accepting responsibility, but charging more to drivers or 2) Drivers accepting reponsibility, but insurance charging more to drivers. With 2, a driver could decide if he wants to risk not having insurance, so my feeling is the market would go with this route since it provides more choice. But again, this is not really predictable. Either way, there would be an incentive to make the roads as safe as possible consistent with providing a good service at a reasonable cost. Presumably, this would include making sure that crazies didn't get on the roads. Crazies on the road, would increase the cost of driving (either higher use costs under 1 or higher insurance costs under 2), so a sensible road owner would balance the need to keep crazies away. If he's too strict in this endeavor, he'll lose money by not having enough customers. If he's not strict enough, he'll lose customers because the costs to the drivers will be too high. It's the kind of balancing act that every business does. In the present government controlled system there is no monetary incentive to make the roads safe, because the government doesn't care if it loses customers.
thank you very much!
It is difficult to imagine that roads in the U.S. could get any less safe than they are right now. Just tonight while driving on a busy Bay Area freeway I was marvelling at the fact that there aren't even <em>more</em> deaths on the roads. Huge blocks of steel and rubber traveling and nearly incontrollable speeds, with just a few feet between blocks, and most piloted by a very distracted driver. It's insantiy the way roads are designed, and yet everyone has simply grown accustomed to the government way of building them.
Private building and running of freeways is eminently viable now, with the advent of video recognition technology and the internet. They are popping up all over the place here. You log your credit card and car registration number into the site of the road owner and then get automatically billed on a per distance basis - No toll booths, no stopping; video recognition cameras are used on the exit ramps. Brilliant! If you are not registered you have 48 hours to pay, but it costs more.
"blocks of steel and rubber traveling and nearly incontrollable speeds, with just a few feet between blocks, and most piloted by a very distracted driver"
There's no logical reason why a completely privately owned road system wouldn't work. One possible model would be that most highways, outside of city streets and residential areas, would be toll roads. Customers would be required to have a transponder, which would log where and when you entered and left the road owner's network. Billing could be assessed on mileage. Certain highways, might be assessed differently at different times of the day. For example during the rush hour, a road owner might charge more (rather like peak billing for a phone). This would have the effect of maximizing revenue to the road owner, and minimizing delays to the driver (fewer traffic jams). Drivers would then decide whether they want to pay extra for the luxury of driving during peak rush hour or using mass transit systems (also privately owned of course). Presumably, new networks of inexpensive mass transit systems would result. The market would decide. I envisage that the market would come up with innovative methods to maximize the number of drivers who could enter and exit a city efficiently at the lowest cost.
As far as city streets are concerned, one possible model might be that merchants and retailers would own the streets. Or a single street owner might charge merchants and businesses. Drivers would probably not be charged since merchants would want to attract as much business as possible. Think of a shopping mall. The walkways in the mall are like streets. The merchants pay for the upkeep of the mall (including the "streets"). If congestion became a problem, it's possible that drivers might be charged, but again a market solution would come up with a way of satisfying the need for businesses to have lots of customers, and customers being able to enter and exit a downtown area efficiently.
The model for residential areas might be present day homeowners associations. Residents would maintain the streets for their local neighborhood. Each neighborhood would decide whether they wanted to have tolls. Tolls might be good if residents needed a seperate source of revenue to pay for upkeep and wanted to cut down on traffic, or they might not, if the cost of collecting the tolls proved too expensive.
why can't i find walter block's 'privatize roads and highways! Now!'? Has it been published?
leonidia, good examples. Let's hope that the private expressway is just the thin edge of the wedge. Once people get used to it there won't be quite the shock at an idea which even Adam Smith was dubious about. Of course technology is a key factor also.
Lojpre, that is one of his publications available online on roads. Loads of other articles are available at his website, under the heading of Urban, Rural and Regional Economics:
Anonymous Coward: I don't really see it as fair to blame government ownership for highway deaths. There are a *lot* of idiots out there.
If roads were not monopolized, entrepreneurs would constantly be finding ways to make them safer, for everyone. You do not want to blame the government because you don't think they cause roads to be unsafe. But government keeps people from making them safer, which is the same thing.
JonBostwick:If roads were not monopolized, entrepreneurs would constantly be finding ways to make them safer, for everyone. You do not want to blame the government because you don't think they cause roads to be unsafe. But government keeps people from making them safer, which is the same thing.
You're a mind reader I see.
Just judging by personal observation, if everyone followed the 'rules of the road' there would be far fewer accidents. There are some things that are unavoidable, hence the name 'accident', but mostly driver error is the root cause. Private ownership isn't going to stop things like migrating deer and just plain stupidity.
You just want to blame the government because you think they're teh debil and refuse to admit that speed limits and other laws are very effective... if they're followed.</mindProbe>
There's plenty of blame to go around I just don't think it's fair to place all of it on the government in this particular case.
Anonymous Coward:You just want to blame the government because you think they're teh debil and refuse to admit that speed limits and other laws are very effective... if they're followed.</mindProbe>
You think driving 65 is any safer than 80? Seriously?
Car companies work to improve safety, which keeps good drivers safer from bad drivers and bad drivers safer from themselves. Monopoly prevents this from happening to roads.
What you said amounts to: You can never prevent every accident, so there is no point in attempting to preventing any of them.
Roads would be better without a monoply.
JonBostwick:You think driving 65 is any safer than 80? Seriously?
It's all relative.
I've been on roads where anything over 5mph is unsafe and have gone 3x the speed limit on my motorcycle. There's no way to generalize.
JonBostwick:What you said amounts to: You can never prevent every accident, so there is no point in attempting to preventing any of them.
No, my whole arguments is based on the fact it's a non sequitur to blame all the highway deaths on government monopoly ownership. That argument just doesn't hold up.
JonBostwick:Roads would be better without a monoply.
Perhaps they would. It would all come down to the individual owners actions which is impossible to really predict. There would most likely be a range between those who strive for excellence and those who merely inherited ownership and wish to extract monopoly rent while they spend all their money on wine, women and song and then blow the rest.
There are no absolutes when it comes to human actions.
Anonymous Coward: It's all relative.
Anonymous Coward: It would all come down to the individual owners actions which is impossible to really predict.
Thus, a person who travels on a dangerous or a poorly maintained road will have deemed it "safe enough" for his personal preference. Therefore, I believe it is a mistake to discuss "safer" roads when the only people who have a valid right to determine the level of safety are content.
Charles Anthony:Therefore, I believe it is a mistake to discuss "safer" roads when the only people who have a valid right to determine the level of safety are content.
Are you claiming drivers are content with the way roads are, as evidenced by them choosing to drive on them?
Thats like claiming that car buyers are self evidently content with the cars available for purchase so car companies can stop improving their cars.
A content consumer does not exist, consumer wants are never satisfied.