Want Infrastructure Improvements, Mr. President? Abolish Government Ownership, Financing and Regulation1
January 31, 2017 by Anders Ingemarson
Editor’s note: As of publishing this, the President’s executive order on immigration is the issue of the week. Regular readers know that with a couple of exceptions SEPARATE! is unabashedly pro free immigration on moral grounds. If this subject excites you more than the nation’s infrastructure you may want to read our Uniting Immigration and Foreign Policy article before continuing.
Before the holidays, as part of his “Making America Great Again” ambitions, then President-Elect Trump proposed a 1 trillion-dollar infrastructure plan to accelerate economic growth, productivity gains and job creation. Congressional Democrats, not to be outdone, have announced their own plan of a similar size. It should give us pause to see Democrats and Republicans competing for the title of who can spend most of our hard-earned money on roads and grids, schools and hospitals, airports, ports, and sports (yes, someone will try to get in on the loot pitching a new stadium as a critical federal infrastructure project for job creation, let’s say, in downtown Detroit).
The administration supposedly wants to achieve its goal through tax credits and public-private partnerships, while the Democrats would rely on federal spending alone. The former may be a marginally less destructive approach. However, regardless how it is financed, the fundamental issue is that government infrastructure involvement as such is morally wrong.
At SEPARATE! we advocate for the total separation of state and infrastructure on moral grounds, with abolition of existing federal, state and local government ownership, financing and regulation. Our individual rights are violated when we’re forced to pay for the infrastructure consumption of others. Roads, buildings, ports, airports, dams, levees, and grids should be privately owned and financed. And infrastructure owners—corporations and individuals—have the individual rights to set the rates and rules for using their infrastructure without interference from federal, state and local government regulators (the Department of Energy, the EPA, the state Public Utility Commissions (PUCs), and the like). Producers and consumers would come together in the market place for infrastructure just like we do in the market place for other goods and services.
Private ownership, financing and control would not only restore the protection of our individual rights, but cure the chronic state of infrastructure disrepair. Businessmen with an interest in investing in infrastructure would factor wear and tear into their long-term cost/benefit calculations and set the price accordingly. If the costs prove too high for what they can charge to make a profit, they will not build the infrastructure in the first place, or wait until new inventions bring down the cost of construction and maintenance.
How do we get from here to there without a Trump Trillion? What does infrastructure independence look like? As usual, the real challenge is winning the moral battle. As in many other areas, the American public has to experience sufficient moral outrage over the injustices created by the right violations in today’s system before we’ll see lasting change: “Why should I pay taxes to fund your work commute, your trucking business, your flood control, your child’s education, your watching your favorite football team…” and so forth.
However, devising practical solutions now may help concretize the issue: if you see a viable road to redemption ahead of you, the moral argument will appear less theoretical.
Let’s put on our abolitionist caps for a moment and, as an example, see what we could do about the Interstate Highway System. If we divide it into manageable chunks, we can auction off the pieces to the highest bidder. The chunks may be structured in different ways. Perhaps each Interstate becomes a chunk (I-5, I-40, etc.), or maybe all the Interstates within each state, or some other division. The estimated p/c (profitability per chunk) will vary depending on how heavy the usage and what condition the roads are in, meaning that some chunks would fetch a very high price and others would probably go for next to nothing. And we should probably spread out the auctions over a few years to avoid a fire sale.
As we auction off the chunks, we reduce the federal highway related taxes and spending accordingly; when no chunks are left, taxes and spending will have been eliminated. Furthermore, when each chunk is sold, it becomes exempt from federal regulation. Once the final chunk is off the auction block, federal regulations impacting the former Interstates will have been rendered obsolete.
What do we do with the proceeds? We’re talking sizeable change here, maybe upwards of a trillion dollars. Our vote is to speed up the separation of state and retirement, the separation of state and healthcare, and the dismantling of other entitlement programs (there’s a Trump Trillion of spending we can support).
Oh, one more thing. Do not let states or local governments in on the auction, and stipulate that the winning bidders are not allowed to resell to any government entities, foreign or domestic. Transferring the moral injustices and right violations from the U.S. federal government to other forms of government would defeat the purpose of restoring our individual rights.
If it’s this uncomplicated to devise an organized retreat from the largest infrastructure entity of them all, others will be no match either once the abolitionist fervor has taken hold.
 The only valid infrastructure public-private partnerships are for facilities required by the legitimate functions of government: the military, the police, and the courts. In a free society, they would be financed with voluntary means by citizens placing a value on those functions.