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Potent Arguments In Favor of Public Roads?

GeoLaureate8
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6/19/2013 5:24:00 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Does there exist an argument for public roads over private roads?

Are local/state funded roads acceptable to those who oppose Federal funding for roads?
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lewis20
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6/19/2013 5:30:05 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 6/19/2013 5:24:00 PM, GeoLaureate8 wrote:
Does there exist an argument for public roads over private roads?

Are local/state funded roads acceptable to those who oppose Federal funding for roads?

I'm fine with state and local roads, though they tend to be terrible at it as well. Not sure who runs the Florida toll roads but they are great.
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darkkermit
Posts: 11,204
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6/19/2013 11:08:50 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Devil's advocate

Private sector always does things more efficiently than the public sector due to incentives and they are responsive to consumer demands. Market principles work best.
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drhead
Posts: 1,475
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6/20/2013 12:20:29 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 6/19/2013 5:24:00 PM, GeoLaureate8 wrote:
Does there exist an argument for public roads over private roads?

Are local/state funded roads acceptable to those who oppose Federal funding for roads?

I posted an essay on this a while back, you can read it here: http://www.debate.org...

Basically, I'm saying that private roads lead to natural monopolies due to the lack of incentive to serve rural areas (low return on investment, we see this problem with ISPs in the US), that taxation on those who don't use said services could be eliminated entirely through creative levying of taxes (such as a driver's license tax possibly), and that infrastructure is very difficult to establish competition with due to the fact that the end result would be having twice as many roads as are needed, the fact that an existing competitor reduces the rate of return on investment (meaning the second company to set up shop isn't guaranteed to get most of the customers in an area, i.e. they would have to compete, while the first company is not presented with this problem at the time of its establishment since it is essentially walking into a monopoly position).

Public infrastructure has an advantage in this regard, since the public sector is obligated to serve all of its citizens, otherwise, the current management will be replaced by someone who will actually do something. With private infrastructure, your large cities will get some really, really nice roads, while your rural areas will be lucky to get a well-defined dirt path.
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darkkermit
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6/20/2013 12:49:59 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 6/20/2013 12:20:29 AM, drhead wrote:
At 6/19/2013 5:24:00 PM, GeoLaureate8 wrote:
Does there exist an argument for public roads over private roads?

Are local/state funded roads acceptable to those who oppose Federal funding for roads?

I posted an essay on this a while back, you can read it here: http://www.debate.org...

Basically, I'm saying that private roads lead to natural monopolies due to the lack of incentive to serve rural areas (low return on investment, we see this problem with ISPs in the US), that taxation on those who don't use said services could be eliminated entirely through creative levying of taxes (such as a driver's license tax possibly), and that infrastructure is very difficult to establish competition with due to the fact that the end result would be having twice as many roads as are needed, the fact that an existing competitor reduces the rate of return on investment (meaning the second company to set up shop isn't guaranteed to get most of the customers in an area, i.e. they would have to compete, while the first company is not presented with this problem at the time of its establishment since it is essentially walking into a monopoly position).

Public infrastructure has an advantage in this regard, since the public sector is obligated to serve all of its citizens, otherwise, the current management will be replaced by someone who will actually do something. With private infrastructure, your large cities will get some really, really nice roads, while your rural areas will be lucky to get a well-defined dirt path.

Some more devil's advocate:

In terms of roads being competitive, whenever I need to go from destination a to b, there's already multiple routes I can take to get there. Therefore, the natural monopoly argument fails, since these multiple destinations serve as competition. There's no argument that "well it would be silly to have two roads when you only need one". Fact is there already ARE multiple roads.
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drhead
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6/20/2013 1:22:00 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 6/20/2013 12:49:59 AM, darkkermit wrote:
At 6/20/2013 12:20:29 AM, drhead wrote:
At 6/19/2013 5:24:00 PM, GeoLaureate8 wrote:
Does there exist an argument for public roads over private roads?

Are local/state funded roads acceptable to those who oppose Federal funding for roads?

I posted an essay on this a while back, you can read it here: http://www.debate.org...

Basically, I'm saying that private roads lead to natural monopolies due to the lack of incentive to serve rural areas (low return on investment, we see this problem with ISPs in the US), that taxation on those who don't use said services could be eliminated entirely through creative levying of taxes (such as a driver's license tax possibly), and that infrastructure is very difficult to establish competition with due to the fact that the end result would be having twice as many roads as are needed, the fact that an existing competitor reduces the rate of return on investment (meaning the second company to set up shop isn't guaranteed to get most of the customers in an area, i.e. they would have to compete, while the first company is not presented with this problem at the time of its establishment since it is essentially walking into a monopoly position).

Public infrastructure has an advantage in this regard, since the public sector is obligated to serve all of its citizens, otherwise, the current management will be replaced by someone who will actually do something. With private infrastructure, your large cities will get some really, really nice roads, while your rural areas will be lucky to get a well-defined dirt path.

Some more devil's advocate:

In terms of roads being competitive, whenever I need to go from destination a to b, there's already multiple routes I can take to get there. Therefore, the natural monopoly argument fails, since these multiple destinations serve as competition. There's no argument that "well it would be silly to have two roads when you only need one". Fact is there already ARE multiple roads.

And there's always one route that can be objectively measured as the quickest. Plus, wouldn't the toll gates generally reduce the quality of roads across the board?

In addition, what do you do when there is only one crappy road to your destination (such as being in a rural area that will be severely underserved in contrast to well-served areas with high population density? Unless some particularly generous company comes along (I can see it now: Google Asphalt) and builds such infrastructure to compete, there will be no other options.
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"You reject religion... calling it a sickness, to what ends??? Are you a Homosexual??" - Dogknox
"For me, Evolution is a zombie theory. I mean imaginary cartoons and wishful thinking support it?" - Dragonfang
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darkkermit
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6/20/2013 1:52:55 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 6/20/2013 1:22:00 AM, drhead wrote:
At 6/20/2013 12:49:59 AM, darkkermit wrote:
At 6/20/2013 12:20:29 AM, drhead wrote:
At 6/19/2013 5:24:00 PM, GeoLaureate8 wrote:
Does there exist an argument for public roads over private roads?

Are local/state funded roads acceptable to those who oppose Federal funding for roads?

I posted an essay on this a while back, you can read it here: http://www.debate.org...

Basically, I'm saying that private roads lead to natural monopolies due to the lack of incentive to serve rural areas (low return on investment, we see this problem with ISPs in the US), that taxation on those who don't use said services could be eliminated entirely through creative levying of taxes (such as a driver's license tax possibly), and that infrastructure is very difficult to establish competition with due to the fact that the end result would be having twice as many roads as are needed, the fact that an existing competitor reduces the rate of return on investment (meaning the second company to set up shop isn't guaranteed to get most of the customers in an area, i.e. they would have to compete, while the first company is not presented with this problem at the time of its establishment since it is essentially walking into a monopoly position).

Public infrastructure has an advantage in this regard, since the public sector is obligated to serve all of its citizens, otherwise, the current management will be replaced by someone who will actually do something. With private infrastructure, your large cities will get some really, really nice roads, while your rural areas will be lucky to get a well-defined dirt path.

Some more devil's advocate:

In terms of roads being competitive, whenever I need to go from destination a to b, there's already multiple routes I can take to get there. Therefore, the natural monopoly argument fails, since these multiple destinations serve as competition. There's no argument that "well it would be silly to have two roads when you only need one". Fact is there already ARE multiple roads.

And there's always one route that can be objectively measured as the quickest.

Depends on traffic. There's also factors of safety as well that one can consider. But even if there's one route that is objectively better, this still creates competition, since if one road charges too much, than one can simply use the cheaper, yet longer route.

Plus, wouldn't the toll gates generally reduce the quality of roads across the board?

You can just use something like the E-Z pass system in which you don't even have to stop. You just go straight through. This lowers transaction costs.

http://en.wikipedia.org...

In addition, what do you do when there is only one crappy road to your destination (such as being in a rural area that will be severely underserved in contrast to well-served areas with high population density? Unless some particularly generous company comes along (I can see it now: Google Asphalt) and builds such infrastructure to compete, there will be no other options.

Well that's your choice to live in a rural area. However, road builders will still keep prices low enough so that new competition won't exist.
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Stephen_Hawkins
Posts: 5,316
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6/20/2013 3:59:36 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
A a public road is a public good. It's only if we accept the claim that "taxation is theft" that this becomes a problem. I reject the claim, so I reject the arguments from moral grounds. This forces it either into a philosophical debate about tax in general, or an efficiency debate about private vs public sector in all aspects.

A private road must be on analysis a geographic monopoly. In any region of land, we're essentially forced to use that road, because there are so few of them - one, in fact, in almost all situations. If it is not a geographical monopoly, at the very least it is an extremely inelastic good as the price once there is a charge, as the vast majority of people who use them will have to. Assuming private roads includes all land around it as well (footpaths I mean, things like that), people almost certainly have to travel down the roads.

Secondly, we can challenge whether the universal application of the private sector is a good idea. A private sector is incredibly slow by comparison to an active public sector, so while a private sector may upkeep a road to be nice when they have the money, in a bust or even just the owning business starting to fail, the areas around will face severe lack of decent roads. While this is bearable in a built up industrial area where other companies will pick up the slack as the road is a public good everyone needs, in for example rural areas, it simply won't be built. In the UK we have many good examples of how this happens, such as with broadband, rail, etc.

However, the final point comes from game theory. Take the freerider problem: people get free goods by not contributing because they rely on others doing so. Now, put it into game theory when there are many other competitors. The freerider problem in game theory says the ideal situation is to have the public good without having to pay for upkeep yourself: in other words, rely on someone else to use it. So companies won't take up responsibility, and instead procrastinate. And procrastinate. And keep going, to be efficient, while the equity for all stakeholders in the road drops and drops and drops. Of course, how severe this problem will be is dubious in practice, and it could be that many companies don't do this. However, game theory has been shown to be accurate many times, and if it happens in any situation, the consequences can be disastrous.
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drhead
Posts: 1,475
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6/20/2013 11:40:19 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 6/20/2013 1:52:55 AM, darkkermit wrote:
At 6/20/2013 1:22:00 AM, drhead wrote:
At 6/20/2013 12:49:59 AM, darkkermit wrote:
At 6/20/2013 12:20:29 AM, drhead wrote:
At 6/19/2013 5:24:00 PM, GeoLaureate8 wrote:
Does there exist an argument for public roads over private roads?

Are local/state funded roads acceptable to those who oppose Federal funding for roads?

I posted an essay on this a while back, you can read it here: http://www.debate.org...

Basically, I'm saying that private roads lead to natural monopolies due to the lack of incentive to serve rural areas (low return on investment, we see this problem with ISPs in the US), that taxation on those who don't use said services could be eliminated entirely through creative levying of taxes (such as a driver's license tax possibly), and that infrastructure is very difficult to establish competition with due to the fact that the end result would be having twice as many roads as are needed, the fact that an existing competitor reduces the rate of return on investment (meaning the second company to set up shop isn't guaranteed to get most of the customers in an area, i.e. they would have to compete, while the first company is not presented with this problem at the time of its establishment since it is essentially walking into a monopoly position).

Public infrastructure has an advantage in this regard, since the public sector is obligated to serve all of its citizens, otherwise, the current management will be replaced by someone who will actually do something. With private infrastructure, your large cities will get some really, really nice roads, while your rural areas will be lucky to get a well-defined dirt path.

Some more devil's advocate:

In terms of roads being competitive, whenever I need to go from destination a to b, there's already multiple routes I can take to get there. Therefore, the natural monopoly argument fails, since these multiple destinations serve as competition. There's no argument that "well it would be silly to have two roads when you only need one". Fact is there already ARE multiple roads.

And there's always one route that can be objectively measured as the quickest.

Depends on traffic. There's also factors of safety as well that one can consider. But even if there's one route that is objectively better, this still creates competition, since if one road charges too much, than one can simply use the cheaper, yet longer route.

There still are objectively better roads that don't lend themselves well to competition. Look at interstate highways, for example. Do you find yourself going out of your way to use another route besides an interstate? The most I've ever done this is using the Atlanta bypass so I don't have to deal with the incredibly dense traffic in Atlanta - however, both routes serve their specific purpose, and some destinations can only be gone to one way.

Plus, wouldn't the toll gates generally reduce the quality of roads across the board?

You can just use something like the E-Z pass system in which you don't even have to stop. You just go straight through. This lowers transaction costs.

http://en.wikipedia.org...

Toll booths still cost money to build. The costs of building a toll booth must be recouped as well. Public roads rarely are forced to make toll booths - taxes are much easier to use to pay for roads.

In addition, what do you do when there is only one crappy road to your destination (such as being in a rural area that will be severely underserved in contrast to well-served areas with high population density? Unless some particularly generous company comes along (I can see it now: Google Asphalt) and builds such infrastructure to compete, there will be no other options.

Well that's your choice to live in a rural area. However, road builders will still keep prices low enough so that new competition won't exist.

Rural areas are essential - where else will we get enough room for enough farms to produce enough food for everyone? Not in cities. And the state of the market with and without competition would be vastly different - one keeps their prices and quality of service reasonable relative to the other company to attract customers, and the other maximizes their profit margins by skimping on quality and choosing a price that is high, but low enough to mean that new entries to the market wouldn't be able to pay off their initial costs quick enough.
Wall of Fail

"You reject religion... calling it a sickness, to what ends??? Are you a Homosexual??" - Dogknox
"For me, Evolution is a zombie theory. I mean imaginary cartoons and wishful thinking support it?" - Dragonfang
"There are no mental health benefits of atheism. It is devoid of rational thinking and mental protection." - Gabrian