The Privatization of Roads & Highways: Human and Economic Factors

By Foulkes, Arthur | Freeman, April 2011 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Privatization of Roads & Highways: Human and Economic Factors

Foulkes, Arthur, Freeman

The Privatization of Roads & Highways: Human and Economic Factors by Walter Block Ludwig von Mises Institute * 2009 * 475 pages * $19.00

Reviewed by Arthur Foulkes

Loyola University economist 'Walter Block is among the most fearless advocates of freedom today. At a time when pundits widely believe the free market has failed, Block takes his case for truly free markets deep into unfriendly territory by arguing for the full privatization of all roads and highways.

In 2006 officials in Indiana leased 157 miles of the Indiana Toll Road to a private Spanish/Australian consortium. While this was called a "privatization," Block would clearly dismiss it as nothing of the kind. The Indiana Toll Road remains owned by the state. Real privatization would mean completely private ownership of all streets, roadways, paths, and freeways. Only private roadway owners "would determine regulations and prices.

In the current political climate it may seem Block has the cart before the horse. Arguing for free-market roads these days is a little like a starving person worrying about his dessert. Shouldn't we first try to halt the current growth in the size and scope of government and deal with the almost Utopian idea of private streets and highways later? But anyone who has read Block's provocative book, Defending the Undefendable, or has heard him discuss free-market ideas one on one, knows he does not blink in his support for freedom. Besides, if "we can establish that private property and the profit motive can function even in 'hard cases' such as roads, the better we can make the overall case on behalf of free enterprise," he writes.

A big roadblock, so to speak, in arguing for private roads and highways is that practically everyone takes government ownership for granted. Even many economists, using "market failure" arguments such as the one about "externalities," often cite roads as something only government can provide. Block carefully takes apart these arguments. For example, the "externalities" argument contends that private investors would underinvest in roads and highways. But who is to say, given a complete lack of market signals, a government agency would invest the correct amount? Indeed, this part is among the book's best contributions.

In addition to giving readers a seminar in logical economic reasoning, Block's book also reflects his passion for freedom. He believes firmly that government management of roads and highways is not only inefficient but also deadly. "Road socialism" causes the deaths of more than 40,000 people in the United States each year. And although many people blame highway deaths on alcohol, unsafe vehicles, or speeding, Block lays the blame on the government officials who manage the highway system.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Privatization of Roads & Highways: Human and Economic Factors


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?