Freedom

I’d like to draw your attention to this. It’s from Stephen Joseph, director of the Campaign for Better Transport.

“… the motoring manifesto is really State planning masquerading as libertarianism. The argument runs: people want to drive cars, it is part of a fundamental freedom to move around, and any impediment or charge on this, beyond perhaps a ring-fenced contribution to pay for road building and maintenance, constrains that freedom.

The truth is rather different: motoring, unlike other transport and economic activity, is not charged at the point of use. Once the tank has been filled and (sometimes) vehicle tax and insurance paid, people are free to use the roads as they like, at the times they like. Sometimes so many of them want to use the same stretch of road at the same time that congestion occurs. In all other areas of the economy, the price of scarce goods rises to reflect demand. Because there is no price for using roads, people queue.

To deal with this unpriced excess demand, the State then steps in and centrally plans trunk roads using bureaucrat-generated forecasts of future traffic based on past trends. To build these roads, it then compulsorily purchases private property, after a public enquiry in which it is not possible (following a 1980 House of Lords ruling) to challenge the principle of the project and the forecasts underlying it, only the detailed routing and mitigation measures.

“Sound familiar? This process has several of the characteristics of Stalinist central planning which in other areas conservatives have taken steps to abolish. Like Stalinist central planning, it also doesn’t work.[ … ]

The politics are also not as good on speeding traffic as they might look. The public is suspicious of speed cameras being used to raise money, but that is about the public’s distrust of the State, not an opposition to cameras or to speed restraint. Huge majorities of the public – indeed of members of motoring organisations like the AA – support speed cameras, and not just in accident black spots but on residential streets, in villages and around schools. [ … ]

“Much car use is not a choice, it’s enforced by State decisions on road building and land use planning”

(Unfortunately I have lost the full reference but it is from something called the blue book on transport which was directed at conservative party policy makers when they were in opposition. I came across it when I did a short volunteer stint for Transport2000 (now the Campaign for better transport) in 2005, so the date would be somewhere in the early noughties)

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