Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

The classic political study Crisis and Leviathan, by Robert Higgs, argues that the state often exploits the sense of urgency that attends a crisis to enlarge itself as the way to “solve” the problem — even when government itself created the problem.

The federal government’s profligate credit policies, which fueled the now-busted housing bubble, come to mind. The government’s “solution” here is to lard some failed companies with subsidies and nationalize others. Why? Oh, no time to think, just hurry up and do it before investors get even more jittery.

Sometimes, though, officials scrambling for a solution consider solutions that might actually help. Crumbling infrastructure is on the minds of many city and state politicians. But the tough economy is also on their minds. Many are therefore more open these days to the idea of private financing of roads
and bridges. As Norman Mineta, former transportation secretary, puts it, ”Budget gaps are starting to increase the viability of public-private partnerships.”

I don’t know about the “partnership” part of it. Too often such ”partnerships” mean that a business is prevented from making good decisions, or is protected from the costs of bad decisions.

If we’re going to delegate a train or road to a private company, let them take full responsibility for it. Companies that succeed will get us from here to there just fine. And taxpayers won’t have to cough up money for the ones that fail.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

By: Redactor


  1. Mervyn Cloe says:

    It is generally a bad idea to even consider public/private arrangements for roads or bridges. Who do we trust to negotiate the long term contracts required for investment return.

    Selling off the rights for a toll road or bridge will invite foreign investors like it has in Texas.

    If we can not afford roads and bridges we should not build them. Slowing the traffic down is all you need to prolong the service of older infrastructure.

    The trouble today is the proliferation of public employ to administer ( )DOT funds:You supply the state, they are all the same!

  2. Gabriel Roth says:

    Of course rail and road services can and should be privately provided, as discussed in “Street Smart”, the award-winning 2006 book published by the Independent Institute.

    And Paul is right to warn against “Public-Private Partnerships”, for the reasons he gave, and also because such arrangements can invite corruption, as in Russia.

    Foreign investment in roads can improve mobility and should be welcomed, provided it does not preclude investment by others.

  3. Judy Kopulos says:

    How can any such partnership be fair? The “public” (government) produces nothing and has no incentive to be judicious in its spending. Any partnership with government, breeds careless business practices, if not outright corruption. It also has the effect of quashing competition.

  4. Bill says:

    The article reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

    The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary
    H L Mencken

  5. Nancy Stefani says:

    I’m reminded of Warren Buffets tale of two islands, one Thriftville the other Squanderville. We have been Squanderville, and now our fate is the same. We are selling our whole country in order to continue a short while longer, to live beyond our means. Our money and effort built these roads, bridges, schools and other public facilities, now when they are being sold to other countries, who could care less about our continued good fortune, where will that money go? We already owe it. We have not demanded our well paid elected officials, local and national uphold their duty to maintain our property. See IOUSA TO know our future. Go to Restore the Republic before it is too late

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