Less Government, But More Roads Please

<p>Conservatives and libertarians who admonish government spending and transit subsides still support new road and highway construction, and the state power and funding they typically require.</p>
April 2, 2008, 10am PDT | Christian Madera | @cpmadera
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Author and commentator Alex Marshall argues that the current pro-road position of many conservative and libertarian groups doesn't seem to match with their anti-government stance.

"The ancient Romans had a saying: To make a road straight, you need to make someone's neck crooked.

This chilling refrain is a vivid summing up of an obvious fact: Building a road is a manifestation of power, particularly state power. Carving a road across multiple jurisdictions and property lines - not to mention varying terrain - can be done only by an institution that can override the wishes of any one individual.

This was true in the days of the Roman Empire, when mighty roads were built so well that many of them still exist. And it's true today. In the exercise of that authority, local, state and federal governments spent more than $150 billion on roads in 2005, according to the most recent federal Highway Statistics report. That's comparable to what we spend annually on waging war in Iraq.

Given all this, I find it exceedingly strange that a group of conservative and libertarian-oriented think tanks - groups that argue for less government - have embraced highways and roads as a solution to traffic congestion and a general boon to living. In the same breath, they usually attack mass-transit spending, particularly on trains. They seem to see a highway as an expression of the free market and of American individualism, and a rail line as an example of government meddling and creeping socialism."

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Published on Wednesday, April 2, 2008 in Governing
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