I encountered a “muh roads” argument in the comments section of an article about funding of a local transportation system that’s crumbling under its own inefficiency, with the usual advocates and cronies demanding more taxpayer bailouts and subsidy.
My thoughts on it all:
Folks both Democrat and Republican have been indoctrinated that government is the only way. That’s what happens when government mandated union workers teach k-12 at government run schools with government mandated curriculum. Hence, collectivization appears to them as the only solution, much like to a cult member, certain concepts seem self evident, no matter how dubious. Hence, most citizens clamor for price fixing of labor, cronyism in contractors, and laws that prohibited competitive price discovery… on top of socialist redistributionism to help riders cover the cost, especially those who are deemed “in poverty”. Hence, articles like the one linked above.
In truth, Transportation is no different than any other service or good = not exempt from basic laws of economic gravity. The only reason government is the only player in these niches is due to a century ++ of government intervention that has both crowded out and prevented / stunted competition from and within the private sector. In this case, from assisting crony cartel attempts on a local level to the PA Utility Commission (PUC) intervening in mandated price fixing (often to lock out new, lower cost competition), the market was increasingly cronyized and eventually socialized to the point where private interests were glad to sell out to Pittsburgh’s county government in 1964, with stragglers throwing in towel vs. competing with taxpayers. Today PAT (Pittsburgh Area Transit) is bloated with operation costs that far exceed the natural market price to provide these same services, as a means to enrich politically-connected labor organizations, crony public transport contractors and the politicians who trade in those favors. The PUC heavily regulates any attempt to compete with the bloated PAT, making competition impossible against heavy tax-subsidized rides. It personifies your “utterly dysfunctional”.
For perspective, look at what PA and Pittsburgh / Allegeny County Government and the PUC-created cab cartels did to transportation: Pittsburgh was famous for overpriced, pathetic cab service, indifferent to customer demand. At high demand times, cabs were chronically unavailable. Dispatchers would promise cabs that would arrive late (we’re talking more than an hour) or not at all, which made for interesting trips to catch flights at the airport, etc. But for Uber and Lyft’s willingness to bypass Pittsburgh’s local cartel’s protectionist rules and go directly to the consumers who embraced them immediately and overwhelmingly, the citizens of the region would still be suffering under PUC mandated BS as they currently suffer with PAT.
One of the commenters chastised a call for ending government cronyism in the comment section as Ayn Rand “every man for himself” evil, a quip that betrayed a horrible misunderstanding of Ayn Rand’s philosophy and Free Markets in general, what to say of a lack of historical perspective. But this is commonplace. Most have only been exposed to Rand and Free Markets via second or third hand sources, usually progressive and neo-marxist critiques. Or in the case of free market economics, much through texts authored by modern economists, analysts or pundits out to justify collectivist central planning of money, interest rates and economic cycles. Hardly unbiased sources for presenting the material credibly.