Wednesday, February 14, 2018

One Good Reason to Privatize Highways

A Don Boudreaux letter to the Wall Street Journal:
Perhaps Ed Slattery is right that the costs of allowing longer trucks on highways – including costs in the form of increased dangers to motorists – will be greater than the benefits (Letters, Feb. 12).  But perhaps he’s wrong.  Who knows?  After all, it’s plausible that allowing trucks to be longer will so reduce the number of trucks on the highways that the total damage that trucks cause to highways, roads, tunnels, and bridges, as well as the risks of highway accidents caused by trucks, will fall.
Were highways privately owned and operated, highway owners would have much stronger incentives than do government administrators to discover the ‘optimal’ maximum size of trucks to allow on highways.  Because government officials, who today make those decisions, have almost nothing personally at stake in imposing whatever rules they impose – and because their one-size-fits-all rules prevent simultaneous experimentation with different rules – there is no good reason to believe these bureaucrats strike anything close to the optimal balance between costs and benefits.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030
UPDATE: Frank Stephenson e-mails the following excellent point: “Might also be safer if the marginal drivers who lose truck-driving jobs are more dangerous than the average driver.”
The above originally appeared at Cafe Hayek.
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1 comment:

  1. There is a good chance that in a private property, free market system transportation would be much different. Specifically about longer trucks (road trains) some roads could be limited to freight vehicles, other roads could exclude freight vehicles and others could allow mixed traffic that drivers can choose to use or not. Some roads could be built to better accommodate road trains.

    In a private property, free market system it may be found that a larger rail system is better to use for freight than the use of road vehicles. It is mind boggling to think of how different a world we would live in if we had a true free market for the last 100 years or even the last few decade.