Thursday, May 1, 2008

Libertarians for statism

I was reading a blog I just found about/called Market Urbanism, and in it the author links to an article in Governing Magazine about the hypocrisy of libertarian think-tanks advocating tax dollars be spent on public roads. It's the first time I've ever seen something in print about this sort of vulgar libertarianism when it comes to transportation (something I've written about a few times). The author calls out the Reason Foundation and its founder Robert Poole for their especially egregious violations of free market principle, and this paragraph just about sums up my thoughts on why American so-called libertarians love socialized roads:

Many of the authors of these studies are a rotating castof writers who pop up again and again, including Randal O'Toole and Wendell Cox. They "extol the autonomy made possible by automobiles" wrote fellow libertarian and New York Times columnist John Tierney in a 2004 article on the subject. Tierney calls them, including himself, "the autonomists." That is, libertarians who have embraced highway spending, although they focus more on the individually-bought car, not the government-built road it requires.

The article isn't all good, though. Even though the author correctly recognizes that America's "automobile-based landscape of suburbs, single-family homes, office parks, mega churches and shopping malls" is a government machination, he still reminds us that "[o]ur national road system would never have been built if every street were required to pay for itself." Yeah, that's exactly the point! Our "national road system" is the problem, and the author's implication is that not only would there be no "national road system," but that roads are indeed synonymous with transportation. But just because we wouldn't have trillion-dollar pavement stretching across the continent doesn't mean we wouldn't be able to get across the continent – or, more importantly, wherever it is that we want to go.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link to my new blog, Market Urbanism! I will add this to my feeds and link to your past posts when applicable...

I have long been bothered by some libertarians love of socialized highways which have caused so many of our problems. So, I started the blog to spread the word on that and zoning issues.

I'm going out on a limb here, but the next step is to look into where their funding is coming from. Could it be petroleum interests? Ahem, Koch...

Thanks for spreading the word!

PS. otherwise I'm still a huge fan of CATO and Reason.

Stephen Smith said...

I wrote about an article a while ago that mentioned that Koch Industries also has a road-building division (which explains the Kochtopus' affinity for the pseudo-privatization of roads). It doesn't seem quite logical that Koch would knowingly use his support of libertarian causes to advocate socialist/corporatist solutions, but it seems perfectly reasonable that statist libertarians (i.e., minarchists) would get a little confused on what's truly libertarian, and what's not.

I like some of Cato's stuff (though I really think they spend a disproportionate amount of space denying global warming and shilling for more tax payer-financed roads), but I like Reason better because they tend to stick with what they do well (drugs, the police state, foreign policy, politics, science, and technology). Only occasionally do they let statists tools like O'Toole spout their vulgar libertarianism.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100%
My biggest concern is that we can see through O'Toole's shilling. So, I often question whether the rest of the CATO research is equally skewed or if the global warming deniers and highway lovers are just the exception to the norm.