But who will build the roads?

Road construction is in neither the US Constitution nor the Iowa Constitution. What were our Founders thinking?
Photo by Ruben Hanssen on Unsplash

When freshly converted libertarians start vigorously proselytizing to friends and strangers the most frequent retort they hear is – but who will build the roads?

The correct answer – no one knows. It could be farmer Jones, it could be entrepreneur Betty, perhaps corporation Gargantuan, or even the state. We’ll just have to wait and find out who wins the battle of the free market in road building.

That being a very unsatisfying answer for non-libertarians, let me point you toward a transportation specialist who continues to impress me with both his libertarian bona fides and his road building expertise. Robert Poole publishes the Surface Transportation Innovations Newsletter monthly, a must read if you want to know who will build the roads.

It’s much more than just roads, however, it covers all sorts of interesting transportation questions you will seldom see addressed in Google News or your Facebook news feed.

Things like – how crazy are the Department of Transportation’s Unserious Supply Chain Proposals? [Spoiler alert – over the top crazy.]

Tidbits such as – the Biden administration increased the Trump administration-initiated tariffs on Chinese intermodal container chassis from 25% to 246% in 2021, more than tripling the price [NYTimes firewall] of these chassis that represented 85% of the market. [A classic case of your tariffs are bad, my tariffs are good, real world results are irrelevant.] 

In the latest newsletter you will also find a critique of the 15-Minute City. With such a catchy title, how could anything possibly go wrong? [Alternative question – could anything possibly go right?]

Finally, if all you really want is some light reading (for those who subscribe to The New Yorker, but only read the cartoons), Poole always closes with some of the sweetest quotes around, usually the kind of thing that brings your feet back down to the dirt road/ground, sometimes with an ungentle landing. “Before Election Day the price of gas will go up and down approximately 267 times, because that’s the number of days between now and then.” So there.

3 Responses

  1. Who will build the roads? The same people who do it now, they will just be paid by other means. In Iowa Petersen Contractors Inc would likely do the work…

  2. I farmed for 20 some years. The majority of those years weight li.its went from 80,000 to 100,000 in the fall supposedly to help us get our crop out. We did not care if we made a couple of extra trips to town in the fall to not beat up our farm implements and vehicles the test of he uear on the resulting wrecked roads.
    My guess is that the road construction lobby is to powerful in DesMoines .
    As Governor will you intervene on behalf of Iowans to stop allowing our roads to be wrecked every fall?

    1. It will take a while to get there, but all roads should be built and maintained with user fees, not fuel taxes. User fees will charge you per mile, per pound. There is probably a simple formula to make sure that whatever you are driving, you will be charged for the cost of the road destruction you are creating. There is also the road destruction that is caused by nature, even if no one ever drives on the road. That will also have to be properly allocated.

      The answer to your question is, therefore, if you would like to drive on a road and destroy it, feel free, but you will pay through the nose for the privilege, because the road will have to be fixed after you drive on it.

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