- Nov 6, 2002
> Road fascism?? Now there's a term I will admit I have never heardWell, there are about 4 million miles of roads in the US.
> before. Please explain that to me!
And no one is charged to use them.
There is a gas tax, but it covers only about 1/3 of the costs of new
roads and repair. The rest comes out of the general fund. Of
course, the tax doesn't touch our defense spending for wars for oil
and so forth.
The roads are not just land but improvements. Those improvements are
expensive. And since the gas tax only covers 1/3 of the costs, much
comes out of the general taxpayers funds. It is socialist/fascist--
not a free market deal. Now, even though, for instance, the 1998
Highway Bill was 219 billion, the largest ever by a factor of 4 and
that is just the Feds, it doesn't really capture the lay out of
capital over at least a hundred years on our road system. And, most
importantly, does not figure what are roads are worth as a system.
It should further be pointed out that cost and value for use are two
completely different things. Example. You own a home. If you tell
me I can live in the home for my pro rata share of 1/3 the cost of a
new room and repairs to the living room--but nothing more AND there
are to be 100 people living their, my pro rata share is small. And
your house is full.
This is the reason for gridlock, and for SUVs and rising gas milage
despite better technology. It is the simple fact that roads are a
HIGHLY subsidized part of our lives--far and away the
largest "government" asset. We think nothing of the fact that our
culture is dominated by roads now.
But it is a subsidy with social force. In 1960, like I said, 60
percent of the US was city or small town. That is 1960 Census data.
The most recent Census data has it at 60% in the burbs now. Recent
studies show US citizens drive TWICE as much in just the past 10
years. Our families are more apt to break up, and interestingly,
women are less happy then they were in the 1970s when we drove less.
I think men don't mind the drive as much but women are killed
socially by their greater inability to be central figures in
the "household" any more because of the greater and greater amount of
time American families spred from their homes.
Low density growth is the result, and it causes rot in the cities and
small towns. The tax base decreases, social services like education
are diminished. It is true that there is growth in the new burbs,
but that growth is not planned nor will it be prepared to deal with
the longer term issues like Hubbert's peak. And it is a growth
pattern that cannot be sustained.
My thing with this subsidy and transfer of wealth is that the roads
as a monopoly is actaully a much larger subsidy then one would think
at first blush. That is because the whole system has incredible
economic meaning, from truckers to commuters who live in a rich area
and work in a high density, poor area, further causing class
differences between wealthy and poor, between thos living in low
density areas and those living in high density areas. I think the
whole system is worth about 10 trillion dollars, so even to provide
roads at tolls with simple interest at mind would lead to 1 trillion
in tolls, which comes done to thousands per American. This kind of
cost reflection would drive down driving. We wouldn't as a culture
be as apt to build large homes in the middle of no where and drive
from them in 4,000 pound SUVs to return a 5 ounce video. This is an
incredibly wasteful use of energy.
Fascism is the only way to describe the politics of these roads--why
we would want to continue a subsidy that is so short sighted from and
ecological and economic standpoint.
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