Wednesday, January 8, 2014

But... Who Will Build the Roads????

I saw this picture on the Facebook today:

Everyone's a small government conservative until their state is buried under 2 feet of snow.

It makes my head hurt.  I mean really really really bad.  The creator of this graphic assumes that ONLY government can clear the roads.  This leads into the real issue.  Many simply believe that only Government can build infrastructure.

The hard facts are that, in many places, government has a legislated monopoly on the creation of infrastructure.  They have said that only they can build, and maintain the roads.  However, when relieved of government limitation, anyone has the ability to build infrastructure.  All it takes is investment.

A good example of private road building comes from the Oil and Gas industry.  They need to get their rigs to the wellsites.  These rigs are transported by trucks.  Trucks need roads.  Wellsites, for the most part, are in remote areas where there are no roads.  How do the trucks get there?  The company builds the roads, bridges, and other infrastructure to get their equipment to the site. The investment that the put in to the infrastructure building, is recovered by the sale of their product.

Let's come back to the situation above.  Even with proper planning, no company, or government, would have bought the necessary equipment to handle the situation there.  The company, or government would not be acting in anyone's interest to pay for the upkeep and maintenance of so many snow plows.  However, with proper planning, a situation like the one above could have been mitigated had the government entity responsible for the clearing of roads had a contingency where private citizens and business could have contracted with the government to aid in the road clearing.  Many business would have done it out of their own pocket, and, in the real world, many do illegally.

For some unscientific, anecdotal evidence, we look to the great snow storm in Oklahoma City on Christmas 2009.  About 15 inches of snow was dumped on the completely unprepared city.  Everything shutdown.  The government had no ability to clear the roads, as they only had a single vehicle that could have a snow plow attached to it.  However, they didn't have the snow plow.    So...  What happened?  Did OKC just shut down and everybody rolled over and died? No.  Illegally, business and private citizens attached snow blades to their private vehicles and cleared the roads.  Within a day or two, before equipment arrived from other states, everything was running smoothly.  There were a few people that were ticketed for clearing roads.  But all in all, the problem was solved by private citizens.