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.
Free markets are the opposite of “every man for himself” and are also very unlike the “utterly dysfunctional” government-cartelized, political approach, which can be summed up as “to the victors go the spoils of plundered citizens’ wealth AND consent each election”. (“Every man for himself” and“utterly dysfunctional” being phrases the commentor used to describe Ayn Rand and free markets..
Free markets work very simply: to get something you must provide something of value to society in exchange, and do so consensually. The greater the value of what you provide to society is, the greater the value you receive in return. That’s it. “Every man for himself” is a lie, a fiction of Marxist critique and progressive hyperbole used to score political advantage, nothing more. Free markets demand a social contract that we all be of value to society as a matter of our existence. End of discussion, separate from Charity, which is its own conversation.
Surely, charity can be government cartelized and politicized, or private, just the same. I prefer non politicized, consent-based charity and argue that it is far better than what we have, for those needing public transportation or otherwise. At the very least, private charity is less inclined to subsidize behaviors that are counterproductive to improving society, if not outright socially pathological. Whereas, politicized, government-run charity serves many private self-interests that benefit by poverty never being resolved. In fact, quite the opposite! Private charity may not be perfect, but it is at the very least more pure and honest in its intent!
Progressives of all types (GOP included) defend an approach that implies, “don’t produce anything for society, but remain entitled to claim the production of others”. The defend a core value that “consent of others is irrelevant to my political whims, and I’ll used boots to your neck to get my preferred way if needed”. That’s both systematically dysfunctional AND immoral, and is akin, in method and results, to slavery: “Your will allow your labor to contribute to my / my group’s personal objectives or you will end up in chains”.
That sentiment is simply contemptible even though it is functionally what is launder it through every election and put into action by politicians at all levels.
Then there was a statement that he U.S. is in a decline because of Randian free markets. That’s simple historic illiteracy. I defy anyone to explain how the United States wiped away thousands of years of humanity wallowing in relative poverty to suddenly produce and accumulate the greatest wealth and universal standard of living among its citizens, by thousand fold, in a matter of just over one century? And long before the 20th century collectivization mentality gained a foothold?
Oh, I know all the Marxist narrative: the evil European white man stole the land and had free reign to exploit undeveloped resources and slavery to concentrate the wealth among a few tycoons and plantation owners. They exploited immigrant labor who suffered the unimaginable injustices of capitalism.
If that is so, what of all the natural resources of Europe, Asia? Why were these never exploited to similar wealth creation? Slavery was hardly a concept to the colonies that became the U.S. within the Americas. Why didn’t south America shoot to the top? Or Europe and its other colonies when slavery was legal? Why has Africa with all its vast resources not created such wealth?
Surely slavery is immoral and wrong. But slavery as an economic system is a failure compared to free market economies, and it was market wages and labor that drove non slave economies in the U.S. to heights while slave states languished. Surely the native Americans were screwed by Western politics and warfare, but they themselves were very tribal and violent among themselves, and their societies were neo-stone aged economies without basic technology of the wheel, math or written language upon European arrival.
Why did citizens flee the poverty of Europe for the massive opportunity to own property and improve their living standards in the 1800s and early 1900s, long before federal labor laws mandated wages to far exceed the clearing wage for labor in the 1930s? Long before entrenched government handouts?
How did the U.S. create untold millionaires from paupers (Andrew Carnegie, “Mick Telegram Boy”) while labor grew into a middle class? While labor converted to owner class? All of this happened well before “progressivism” gained traction in the early 1900s, accelerated under Wilson and cemented under FDR and LBJ? That pre-progressive era of Wealth Creation was very close to the world of Ayn Rand economics! (Although it was already being corrupted by crony-government partnerships, the horrors of which Ayn Rand decried in her works!)
Since then, under emerging progressive economics, we had first Great Depression; post LBJ and then Nixon, the complete hollowing out of U.S. manufacturing, and for the last 40 a massive reversal what had been a trend of improving standards of living? All while Big Government grows and grows?!?
Why, after a brief post WWII honeymoon during which the U.S. was the only manufacturing nation left, amid massive expansion of labor and economic regulations, tax complexity, did U.S. manufacturing start to hollow out in the 1960s, accelerating into the ‘70s and ‘80s, culminating with its near total demise in the ‘90s and ‘00s?
Today stagnated wages are the norm while 1%ers go through the roof, with the fastest growing demographic of 1%ers being in the Washington D.C. Metro and Crony Bankster suburb hubs. Are to wonder why?
And what of Europe and the rest of the world and their vaunted mass transport? Surely I’d prefer that to massive wars abroad and $ trillions wasted. But that’s not an endorsement. Despite it all, if Germany was added as a U.S. state, the median standard of living per citizen would fall among our bottom 5 states – that, with their econ heavy dependent on U.S. consumption! Oh, but they get free healthcare and government run transit systems?!?
Let the rest of the world shake their heads, as the comment author says they do about the backwards attitude in the U.S. to public transportation. We should be going the other direction, instead shaking off crony government and its central planning chains, not following in their footsteps.