Sent: Thursday, February 02, 2017 8:45 AM
Subject: Lobbying local government
Dear Dr. Block: I have asked our local county, which owns a bike trail crossing of a fairly highly-traveled road that it also owns, to improve its functionality. The county’s engineers determined putting in a bike-user controlled traffic light was the cheapest way to improve the crossing. The nearest city is trying to forcefully annex this crossing and the area surrounding it. Because of that, the county asked the city to concur whether they support the project. The city has not responded so the county “tabled” the project despite being the current owner. The crossing itself is not on the border of the city currently.
1. Have I violated any anarcho-capitalist principles by asking the owner of the property, the county, to potentially spend more money to improve that property?
2. Would I be violating any of our principles by lobbying the city to answer the county’s letter, especially basing my argument on property rights, telling the city since it doesn’t currently own it, it should stay out of the issue.
I consider this analogous to Dr. Paul rightfully “earmarking” while in Congress. If they are going to steal my money and then spend it, it might as well be on something that I want. If I had my druthers, I’d buy the crossing, put up the light, and charge a toll to use it. Privatize these roads and trails! Thank you very much for your time. Sincerely, EM
Dear EM: Your first question is a very tough one, and I’m honored you should ask me to try to answer it. After long and careful consideration I have tentatively come to the conclusion that it would be anti libertarian, and therefore improper, to ask the country government to spend more money, even on a (stipulated) much-needed and relatively inexpensive project. Your resort to Ron Paul’s “earmarking” while in Congress, I think, fails as an analogy. For he was not asking the government to spend more money, only to reallocate money already taken in. You are asking the county government to spend more money. Why, not, instead, ask the county government to reallocate money from their very improper use of it (regulations, prohibitions, etc.) and toward this investment, which, as a libertarian, I think is less improper. Then, you would be “covered” by what Ron Paul did while in Congress.
Your second question is a relatively easy one. Telling a government, at any level, to “butt out” can hardly be incompatible with libertarianism.
And, certainly, I agree with your contention: “Privatize these roads and trails!” Indeed, I wrote a book about that very sort of thing: Block, Walter E. 2009. The Privatization of Roads and Highways: Human and Economic Factors; Auburn, AL: The Mises Institute; http://www.amazon.com/Privatization-Roads-And-Highways-Factors/dp/1279887303/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1336605800&sr=1-1; available for free here: http://mises.org/books/roads_web.pdf; http://mises.org/daily/3416; http://www.walterblock.com/wp-content/uploads/publications/radical_privatization.pdf; audio: http://store.mises.org/Privatization-of-Roads-and-Highways-Audiobook-P11005.aspx; http://www.audible.com/pd/Business/The-Privatization-of-Roads-and-Highways-Audiobook/B0167IT18K?tag=misesinsti-20; http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=bf16b152ccc444bdbbcc229e4&id=6cbc90577b&e=54244ea97d