Thursday, June 26, 2014

A 500 Mile Free Market Road in Alaska

Joshua Bennett emails Walter Block:
Dear Walter 
This is kind of long, but it takes some explaining and real life examples sometimes need to be explained. I really think you will be interested in this.
There is actually a real life scenario here in Alaska that plays itself out every day. It's on the Dalton highway, the "Haul Road" to the North Slope of Alaska, seen on the famous though unrealistic "Ice Road Truckers" program.
I have claimed many times that this road shows how a Free society could work.
The 500 mile road was built by oil companies back in the '70s to access Alaska's North Slope oil fields, and to build a pipeline along the corridor.
When the road was completed, Alyeska pipe line services maintained the road for years, getting paid for their services by different oil companies on the Slope, so heavy trucks could haul the needed freight to the North Slope. The road was in perfect condition during this time. Eventually the State of Alaska took over maintenance of the road, and now the road sucks for the most part. The State employees have no incentive to keep the road in good operating condition, they are only required to keep the road passable. So pot holes the size of trucks are very common, and this year stretches of road have become so bad, that 15 mile an hour travel is almost too fast over a 150 mile stretch of the road. A friend of mine hopped into a State road grader and did a 30 mile pass on the road last week, and this 30 mile section is the best part of the whole road. The State got a little pissy over him using this equipment, but no one will rat him out, so he is in the clear.
There is little to no law enforcement on this 500 mile stretch. I have gone months driving it and not seen a cop. There was one cop who took it upon himself to "enforce the law" last year, and he was a pain in the butt for a few months, actually, he was a real asshole to everyone, but when his vehicle broke down in -50 weather, and not one trucker would stop to help him, he got the idea and no longer roams this road.
The haul road has one service center on the 500 mile stretch. It's Coldfoot, a gas station that is at the half way mark of the trip.
Each trucker governs the way he drives. When passing another truck on this mostly gravel, narrow road, you slow way down, it's not the law, but if you are known to rock other trucks on passing them, you will find that every truck on the road will speed up when they see you coming, and soon your truck will be trashed. If someone is broke down on the side of the road, you stop and help. It's a sad day when a new guy shows up, and blows by a stranded trucker. It's not a matter of if, but when you will break down, and if you are known not to help others, no one will stop and help you, - 50 or not. It's not like you can call Triple A, there is no cell phone service on the road.
It's funny, in town a lot of these truckers don't like each other at all. But on the haul road, they will stop and help like a best friend. Company rivals end. It's social pressure at its finest, and I think a good example of a free market society. So when people ask me "who will build the roads" and "what if we didn't have law enforcement" I point to the Haul Road of Alaska.  It's fantastic really, the most Anarchist road in America.

When you get to the oilfields of Prudhoe Bay, before you can go onto the oilfield you have to stop at a guard shack, to show the manifest of your load, before you can proceed onto the several thousand square miles of oil field. All of these roads around the oil field to the different drilling sites are made and maintained by the different oil companies.
The guards are usually very friendly and accommodating, they are private persons making a living like you. They have no weapons. When you are on the field you agree to follow the posted speeds, and various traffic and safety rules that the oil companies have made. There are various security folks driving around, and they will pull you over if you are flagrantly breaking a rule. 
But no State cops.
My brother was pulled over for speeding the other day, the security guy was nice, told him why he pulled him over and said, " I am going to write you up unless there was an emergency reason you were speeding, but there is no monetary fine or penalty involved. But I have to warn you if you get 3 of these you won't be permitted back onto the field, but you can appeal this". 
It was very cold out so my brother said, "let's go sit in your vehicle I want to ask you a couple things". My brother got into his pickup and explained how they were engaging in a voluntary law society right then (while this guy is writing him up), and how there was no force involved or implied, so neither party felt threatened. My brother showed how it was in his best interest to follow the rules so he could make a living on the oil field, and yet he wasn't forced to be there and no one was going to shoot him in the head for breaking a simple rule. The security guy really got the idea, and said he thought it could work in every day society also, you have a private road, obey the rules or they don't allow you to use their property. A monetary slap in the face if you are stupid since you can't work there, but no force is involved, and it's all voluntary.
I have not heard of anyone being murdered there, in fact I have heard of little to no crime, and there are about 30,000 plus people working up there at any given time. It is its own sprawled out city.

Imagine that, a lesson in Anarchy, a free society example, being put into practice by those giant evil oil corporations.

Thank you.

Joshua Bennett


Bighorn Enterprises LLC

"North Slope Transporter of the Year"

Walter Block is author of  The Privatization of Roads and Highways: Human and Economic Factors.


  1. Now THAT is an epic post!

    Excellent article, with concrete examples of anarcho capitalist Rothbardian principle at work. I'll bet you brother was never so happy to get a ticket in his life.

  2. Thank you Mr. Bennett for sharing this irrefutable example of how free market roads work in the real world vastly better than government roads.
    This is an enormously valuable piece of "intellectual ammunition" that I intend to cite frequently.

  3. Thank you Rick and Bevin, I appreciate it!

  4. Mr. Bennett thanks for a great explanation on " who will build the roads" Id call you a scholar and a gentleman but know you'd take as an insult.