In political discourse we commonly hear the argument that without a government, there would be no roads, police, fire department, schools, or any other services (now financed by extortion).

Who would finance and maintain roads, without taxes?


First issue: benefits and obligations

Benefitting from something (directly or indirectly) does not create an obligation.

Furthermore, a service being provided in a free market does not require all beneficiaries to pay.

Even-further-more, economic transactions are not isolated and independent events.

When the supermarket across the street gets their electric bill, they don't send me a piece of it. Why not? When I shop there, I benefit from being able to see stuff. I also benefit from it being a nice temperature inside, even if it's $%@*&!# cold outside. How heartless of me to go in, buy some sushi, a hunk of pepperoni, and a bag of candy corn, and only pay for those things! What a freeloader I am.

Start with basics. "Wealth" is stuff people want. Without coercion, there are two ways to gain wealth: make what you want by yourself, or make something someone else wants, and trade with them (and others) to get what you want.

Fred wants his lawn mowed. Two kids are considering the job. One lives three houses away, and the other lives 8 miles away. The second one has additional "expenses" involved in getting Fred's lawn mowed (whether an expense of time and effort, like pushing a mower eight miles, or an expense of paying someone money to drive him).

Fred doesn't give a rat's ass about those expenses. Fred is not obligated to give the kid extra money for a car ride. Fred is not obligated to give either kid anything, until an agreement has been made. If Fred is actually trading, and not being a charitable organization, the only factors in his decision are "What do I get?" and "What do I lose?" That's all. He loses a few bucks; he gains a mowed lawn.

On the flip side, the only thing the kid considers is "What do I get?" and "What do I lose?" The answer to the second question is very different for the second kid, since he loses more in the deal than the first kid. But that's only relevant to his decision, not Fred's.

Back to the supermarket across the street. What does it get, and what does it lose, by making a deal to sell me sushi, pepperoni, and candy corn? It obviously loses the actual physical stuff it gives to me, but it loses a lot more, too. (Yeah, I know "it" is an imagined entity, but for simplicity just pretend one person runs the whole thing.) "It" knows I don't want to shop in some dark, cold cave. So it loses money making a warm, well-lit, orderly, accessible, etc., etc. businessplace.

Accessible? What does that require? Roads. On the supermarket's private property are roads and parking lots (really wide roads). Where did they come from? Why didn't they send me a bill for them? Because it was part of their premeditated loss in the deal to sell me sushi, pepperoni, and candy corns. A parking lot is really damn expensive (compared to a hunk of pepperoni). What if that was all I ever bought there? Would I be freeloading then? No.

Second issue: free choice and mutual agreement versus coercion or threat of violence.

There are many stores between my house and Okefenokee Swamp which I have only been to once, and only spent $10 or so at. However, they each cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build, maintain, keep stocked, etc. Hardly seems fair . . .unless you understand economics.

The fact that I benefit from something in no way obligates me to pay for it. (While this sounds a bit commie-ish, it ain't.) I only acquire an obligation to pay when there is an agreement that I will pay something for something. If this were not so, I would be the Freeloader King on my way down to Okefenokee. I hear a cool song that I didn't pay for, while looking at nifty scenery I didn't pay for, driving down a road I didn't pay for (state roads not in my state), while munching on circus peanuts I didn't pay for (but my buddy did).


Damned if I know. It ain't mine to fret about, not because I don't want roads, but because I'm not the one who will be making and maintaining them. The problem with collectivists is that they have such a fetish for micromanaging everything that they think they neeeeeeeeeeeeeed to know every detail about how something will work. It never occurs to them that it isn't that way now. Here is statist logic as applied to lunch: "How can I be sure someone will make me a sandwich for my lunch? I neeeeeeeeed lunch! How will they get the grain to make the bread? How will they transport it? Who will pay for the building and equipment to make bread? What if they make bad bread? What if they charge $1000 for one sandwich? What if they decide not to bother selling sandwiches anywhere near me? I neeeeeeeeed lunch! What if they just do nothing??!?!? I'll die!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!"

As idiotic as this is, it is precisely the same logic that statist have regarding the concept of roads without the omnipotent state running the show. ("What if no one makes roads? What if they charge too much? What if they don't make a road for me? . . .") What if you get a grip and stop pretending the world should be, or could be micromanaged?

The usual result of collectivist crises such as this is to advocate state coercion to solve the problem. Trouble is, it never solves the problem, it removes the incentives to do the job well, and it is immoral. (Other than that, it's a good idea.)

Back to Fred. Politicians decide that a Fred neeeeeds a mowed lawn, so they create the Department of Lawn Mowing. While there is no true economic link between what Fred gets from the Department, and what is stolen from him, the supposed "benefit" makes him tolerate the robbery . . .and when he is being particularly idiotic, makes him grateful that he is being robbed. "After all, if there were no Department, and nobody was willing to mow my lawn <evolves into control-freak crisis> . . ."

Adding coercion is immoral. I don't give a rodent's behind if you think Fred benefits from something; the deals in which he gets stuff and loses stuff are his to make, not yours. You have no right to force him to pay for something he did not agree to pay for, any more than my buddy can send me a bill for the circus peanuts he gave as a gift. (And if he tried, he wouldn't be my buddy.) Fred's benefit is irrelevant. However, Fred cannot use other people's stuff without their permission. If he has permission, it doesn't matter whether he had to pay for that permission or not.

But we neeeeeeeeed roads! So let's starting robbing everyone. A road is not a right. In fact, nothing is a right if someone else has to make it for you. Luckily, when the control freaks stay out of the way, self-interest does a marvelous job of making the customers rich. This is something that most people are pitifully clueless about. The big meany evil corporations do not rob their customers; they make them rich. When Fred is in a store, he is still thinking "What do I lose?" and "What do I get?" Without coercion (like the state uses), the business has to make sure Fred gets something he wants. This is true even if Fred isn't paying for that particular thing (like heating in the store).

I have stuff, and produce stuff, and people want it. That, plus an understanding of economics, puts me in real good shape when it comes to stuff I want. I like roads. They are easier to drive on than rocks and trees. Without the state, someone will make them for me. How can I be so sure? I can be sure for the same reason I can be sure that I can walk across the street and get lunch tomorrow, without any politician forcing anyone to make it for me.

As a side note, lots of people like roads. Examining the conclusion of the statists' predicted crisis regarding roads is very telling. The control-freaks must really and truly believe that without the state, hundreds of millions of people would be sitting in their houses, wishing they could get places . . .and no one would take the opportunity to make lots of money fulfilling that desire. If someone will go to the effort to make it so that I can buy a hunk of pepperoni, then someone will damn well make sure I can get there to buy it.

I could guess at who will build the roads, even without a toll system where the users pay directly. I might guess oil companies; I might guess supermarkets; I might guess tire companies, car companies, restaurants, etc. But it is slightly pointless for me to guess, and only eggs the collectivists on for their desire to have everything pre-ordained by threat of force.

What I do know is that adding coercion to the problem reduces all the factors that make it likely the job will be done well (as well as being friggin evil). Consider Fred's decision about getting his lawn mowed, if he was the state. "What do I lose? Whatever I choose to give. What do I gain? Whatever I choose to take." And if the boy was the state, the same thing applies. Coercion reduces the incentive to give the other guy a deal he wants (since you don't need his agreement any more). This is so obvious, and so basic, and yet so foreign to most people. Gack.