THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 462, March 30, 2008
"They still allow you to protest"
Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise
Traffic was moving slowly then stopped for about 45 minutes. I mean literally stopped, with people getting out of their cars in confusion. The construction at the bridge ahead probably had something to do with it, but my recent Route 1 irritation is really an example of the poor customer service we come to expect from government.
Government really isn't great at handling roads. Delays are frequent and construction is slow. Money is wasted and things collapse. But what else can we expect from an organization that gets our money regardless of how poorly it serves us?
It is true that culture is partly responsible for traffic. People do travel more than they need to. But it should be remembered that humans are a characteristically mobile and migratory species that builds and uses machines. Trying to stifle these desires is probably unhealthy.
Regardless, conditions should be shaped by culture, not vise versa. A free market can best respond to popular demand. It encourages resources to be used to satisfy customers instead of the politically connected. Of course, there would still likely be traffic jams and other failures, but there would be greater economic incentive to minimize them.
Though I can't say for sure, it is also likely that government zoning and business restrictions make more automobile use necessary due to the distance they put between work and home.
Unfortunately the transportation system does not operate in a free market. So I sat in traffic hoping the radio would say what was going on (it didn't), because the managers of the road were certainly not going to tell me. This caused me to hear Governor Corzine's approval of the upgraded oppression recommended by a new teen driving study (they mentioned stricter seat belt laws, but nothing about speeding politicians).
State-owned transportation contributes to the artificial lengthening of childhood, which government tries to smoothly transition into dependent, obedient adulthood. Not only are young adults subject to hours of detainment each weekday, encouraged to keep their socializing in the school context as much as possible, and encouraged to bring schoolwork home with them. When they get home, it is frequently to conditions that discourage maturity. If they're fortunate enough to live in a neighborhood not destroyed by government action, their neighborhoods are often just rows of houses distinguishable mainly by landscaping. There are no commercial establishments that would encourage communal gathering and the value of work. There is no wilderness to encourage independence. Unorthodox behavior is treated as disturbing. And of course, police with no emergencies to go to will harass teens suspected of anything. This is not all government's fault, but it is encouraged by the law.
Government is responsible for the difficulty of escape from these nurseries of dependency. The transportation system in many places makes it difficult or dangerous to travel to somewhere else by any method but automobile, a device government prohibits operating until far after a person is able to. And of course, they want to make it even harder to drive. Anyone with an understanding of politics who looks at the situation will see that the reason is desire for control and the result will be another blow to independence for young adults.
People who make a hobby of missing the point might now say: "but you complain about traffic and you want to put more drivers on the road!" This is correct. I also advocate true privatization of the transportation system. I mean private ownership, not merely privatized profits or state-controlled businesses. Anyone who doesn't think that free market transportation would be noticeably better than that of today (it's actually hard to see how it could be anything but better) should note that an elimination of state power will liberate massive amounts of resources that could be put to productive use - for example, satisfying demand for quality transportation. Maybe someone will even implement mass transit that isn't reliably bad. I don't know exactly how it will happen because the market is not mine to run. I do know that when human creativity, energy, and labor (i.e. the market) are finally free from coercion, unprecedented progress will result.
The transportation system, like all state programs, functions as mechanism of control. Like all programs the state currently operates, it will function better for users when a true free market emerges.