What Racetracks Can Teach Us About Government Roads

Thoreau said, strike at the root. Ok. Here goes: If roads were not government-owned, all the abuses currently perpetrated by the state upon harming-no-one motorists would disappear.

For instance:

One of the excuses given in support of our dumbed-down traffic laws is that it’s necessary to accommodate . . . dumbed-down drivers. Speed limits and no-passing zones and no right on red, ever (even in the middle of the night when even Stevie Wonder could see there’s no opposing traffic coming) are all based on the idea that because some people – duly licensed – can’t safely do them then no one may legally do them, irrespective of whether they can do these things safely. (In court, it is irrelevant whether what you did was “safe” or not. The only consideration is whether you violated the law.)

I once wasted an entire Saturday attending one of those hairshirt “traffic school” things the judge will sometimes assign in lieu of a moving violation, in the way of “giving you a break.” (You still pay a huge fine, of course – but you get to avoid the points on your DMV record and thus the more enduring insurance screwing.) Anyhow, I listened as the “instructor” (a cop!) told us that “one day we’ll all be old” and that’s why we should sit patiently behind the addled geezer doing 37 in a 55 and under no circumstances pass him, unless there is a legal passing zone.

Of which there are increasingly few – because of addled geezers (and others) who can’t handle the responsibility.

If the roads were privately owned, the addled and inept could be told – nicely and politely: We’re very sorry but you’re not quite up to operating a vehicle safely on this road. You will have to make other arrangements. We know of an excellent driver-training program. Here is their phone number.


This is not such a strange idea when you stop to think about it a little. I sometimes do track days – driving a car or riding a motorcycle on a race track. The track is privately owned. The owners (or the people renting the venue for the day) can pluck people off the road or deny them admittance if they deem them not up to snuff to driving/riding on the track.

It’s called red flagging.

If government owned the race track, the reverse would happen. The capable drivers and riders would be forced to accommodate the inept ones – and penalized if they didn’t – irrespective of their competence. They would get “red flagged” – in the form of fines and so on, as happens every day on roads and highways all over the country. This is the system we have. And it’s why we have the hassles and idiocy we have. The routine penalizing and throttling of people who haven’t done anything other than run afoul of some edict set forth to accommodate the inept.

Think about the inherent meanness of velocity violations (i.e., “speeding”). It is the very essence of an arbitrary offense and victimless crime. Or right on red. You’re issued a ticket for no other reason than that you decided not to defer to the mindless judgment of an electrically illuminated filament as opposed to the judgment of your own brain and the data fed to it by your perfectly functioning eyes. But because there are people who cannot see well – or whose judgment is impaired – you will be punished for exercising yours.


Privately owned roads strike at the root of this problem. In the race track example, the owners have the right to limit access to their venue based on their criteria because they own the facility. Usually, the drivers/riders pay a fee to use the facility; however – and this is crucial – no one is forced to pay to use the facility. It is a voluntary transaction – for both parties, who each accept the terms of the transaction without any coercion having been applied. This (again) is the antipodal opposite of the way government-owned roads operate.

Government forces everyone to pay taxes for the building/maintaining/policing of its roads. You are not free to decline the transaction. It’s true you can avoid paying the taxes levied on motor fuels – to an extent – by not driving or owning a car. However, the taxes are paid by others (such as the truck drivers who bring your food to the store) and they pass these taxes on to you in the form of higher costs. And you cannot avoid paying the income, property and sales taxes levied on everyone (other than the income and asset-less) from which a goodly portion goes to fund such things as radar-wielding cops as well as eminent-domain proceedings by the government to seize people’s land in order to make room for government’s roads.

Thus, everyone has a legitimate claim – at least morally if not necessarily legally – to use government roads they were forced to help finance. This includes the addled and inept – who demand, among other things, that “speeders” be reigned in so they can operate at the snail’s pace that’s comfortable for them. And because literally everyone has access by entitlement to the roads that government built, the government regulates its roads to accommodate the least common denominator – exactly in the same way (and for the same reasons) that government schools don’t focus on the bright and motivated kids but instead shackle the bright and motivated kids to the dullest, most disruptive and least motivated kids on campus.

If the roads were not paid for by everyone, then everyone would not have a claim to use them. Service could be refused – and while the individual refused service might be upset or embarrassed, he would have no right to feel aggrieved. Nothing had been taken from him, properly speaking. Someone else had merely declined to provide him with something – a qualitatively different thing. I am not victimized if you decide not to sell me something. No one would (well, hopefully most people would not) consider my declining to rent you access to my racetrack an infringement of your rights. I took no money from you. I therefore owe you nothing. You are free to acquire the necessary competence and come back another time – or even to go build your own track and make your own rules, as you deem appropriate. What you are not free to do – or should not be free to do – is point a gun at my head and tell me I must let you on my track and by the way, all those other drivers had better slow down because I think they are not driving safely.

Would there be problems with privately-owned roads? Of course. Nothing made by human hands will likely ever be free of imperfection. But at least, roads under private control could not force people to pay for them and then force them to abide by rules intended to accommodate idiots and punish them for ignoring such rules. You’d be just as free to decline to pay for the “service” as the owners would be free to set terms and conditions of use.

And that’d be a damn sight better than being forced at gunpoint to help finance government roads – and then forced at gunpoint to drive at the level of the lowest common denominator.


Eric Peters

The Daily Reckoning