Hensley: Socialism and Private Roads

A common question asked of libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, and individualist anarchists among others are, “Who will build the roads?” This question is asked under the false pretense that only the government can build the roads. Individuals could easily build and maintain roads and be much more efficient than the government. Pieces on this topic are a dime a dozen. Most of these pieces support free-market roads from a capitalist perspective, but there are socialist (albeit the laissez-faire socialism of Benjamin Tucker) reasons to support them.

Chief among the reasons for free market roads is that they hurt corporations and help small businesses. A corporation has to ship goods across the country, across multiple roads, across multiple locations each and every day. A small business, on the other hand, can either get something local or only needs to ship something to and from one location. Shipping costs for corporations will skyrocket, causing people to buy from local small businesses who will have lower prices in comparison. New small businesses will also rise up to meet the growing demand for more products.

One criticism of free-market roads is that roads are a natural monopoly. Road companies could raise rates too high. Although I doubt this could happen (at least, in an individualist anarchist society), this would provide a major benefit to the environment. If rates go too high, people could use the bus. The bus could take many people to one location and only have to pay for one vehicle. People would leave their cars at home, significantly reducing carbon emissions. The owner of the road would have to reduce rates to encourage people to use their own cars instead.

In an individualist anarchist society, free-market roads would be owned either by individuals as sole proprietorships, by cooperatives, or by local communities. The road owner could hire an independent contractor to fix and repair the road and hire multiple ones to build new roads. This is because of the prevalence of mutual savings banks, providing low-interest loans to prospective business owners. Few would decide to work for someone else but that’s a paper for another day.

One of the best ways, if not the best way, to crush corporations is to use the free market. Free-market roads do just that and even if tolls were too high then people could use the bus. The competition between the road companies and the bus companies will ensure that prices are low. The free market is the best way to spread wealth equally and give the workers power. That’s why it is the driving force of laissez-faire socialism. Free-market roads ensure that workers are given power, power over their wages and incomes, without ceding that power to a central authority, either a corporation or a government. Free-market roads will punish corporations at small business’ benefit. They are one of the best expressions of laissez-faire socialism as exemplified by Benjamin Tucker.

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Dakota Hensley an individualist anarchist and Christian anarchist from Southeast Kentucky. Follow him at @DakotaAHensley.

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