Sunday, April 20, 2014

Questions About the Roads, Eminent Domain, and Citizenship

Written on September 10th, 2011

   Say a person is a sovereign individual, and not a citizen of the U.S.. Say he doesn't have a driver's license, and is operating a vehicle that he purchased himself. Say he is driving on a public road, and is not harming anyone (say he cannot be punished unless he harms another person and/or damages their property).

   Say a police officer pulls him over. Does the sovereign individual have the right to resist arrest? Does the fact that he is using roadways which were paid for by the public mean that he must submit to the officer, being that he is taking advantage of government-provided services without contributing to their funding? Should he be obligated to pay road tolls?

   Through the Takings Clause and eminent domain, the government has authority to purchase private property for use and collective ownership by the public. But what are "public" roads anyway; is "public" use only intended for citizens? Why has the notion of "the commons" been abstracted from the notion of the "public"? How can we ensure that citizens and non-citizens alike have free access to the same roads?

   Is the solution to privatize the roads, i.e., by having the government sell off the roads to those who would bid to purchase them? Would the profit incentive which results from such private ownership cause quality to decrease (i.e., poor maintenance of roads)? Would the quality of the roads decrease any more than it has under government management, being that there is an incentive to profit because citizens do not want their tax money tied to failing enterprises which lose money?

   Rather than to privatize the roads (i.e., have the government sell the roads to companies or other private entities which have exclusive, monopolistic right to supervise who uses them), is the solution instead to allow free competition (free competition being antithetical to monopoly, rather than its inevitable result, as so many are apt to claim)?

   How may such free competition arise, while ensuring that citizens and non-citizens alike have free access to the same roads? Should the government only sell the roads to enterprises which agree to allow universal access to them, and also to fairly compete with other road-building, road-maintenance, and road-supervision agencies?

   Do the users of roads have enough vital interest in the relative safety and fiscal responsibility of such agencies as compared to one another to ensure that (through contribution) the agency which has proven itself most capable of being both safe and fiscally responsible is also the agency which builds, maintains, and supervises more sections of American roadways than its competitors?

For more entries on Fifth Amendment property takings, please visit:

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