I’ve been on a road trip from Chicago to the east coast and back, and along the way I’ve been looking for something I can make into a libertarian lesson. For example, I could write about the poor selection of products at the rest stops along the limited access turnpike, which is an illustration of the problems that come with a government-created monopoly. There are probably a couple of other things like that. But what I finally settled on is the roads themselves.
The highways, expressways, interstates, turnpikes, toll roads, and back roads are all government-built. From time-to-time, this fact leads to someone trotting out a criticism of libertarianism that basically goes something like this:
You’re a libertarian, right? But you use roads, right? Gotcha. Roads are built by governments! Paid for by taxes! Ha, ha! Stupid libertarians.
Yeah, Einstein, you got us. We use roads that are built by the government and funded through taxation. You have totally pwned us, and we are now powerless to object to your beloved government’s regulation of vehicle fuel economy, seat belts, air bags, window tinting, and motorcycle helmets. Also banking, credit cards, investments, stock and commodity markets, corporate leave policies, accounting rules, hiring policies, agricultural production, and net neutrality. And then there’s gambling, drugs (both medical and recreational), liquor, prostitution, obscenity, television and radio content, and cash transaction reporting.
And don’t forget roofing tiles, lawn maintenance, campaign contributions, high school and college athletics, residential rents, taxicabs licenses, beautician licenses, florist licenses, cable television monopolies, tariffs, immigration quotas, zoning, landmarks, employment policies, and whether or not gas stations can have locking pump handles.
Just because there are some government activities that are legitimate and useful doesn’t mean that you get to sneak all the rest of that bullshit past us.
Mark is a computer programmer, website builder, photographer, and sometimes journalist in Chicago, where he also writes the long-running Windypundit blog.