“But Jim, who would build the roads if we didn’t have government?”
That’s the bromide argument that any free-market, small “l” libertarian like me hears whenever we suggest that government isn’t required to carry out societal tasks such as building infrastructure like dams, bridges and roads.
Of course, most people know that government performs these tasks, and just about every task, inefficiently, expensively and poorly. That’s certainly been the case with roads, as America’s city streets are plagued with a profusion of potholes.
How bad is the pothole situation? Well, according to TRIP, a national transportation research group, my home city of Los Angeles, California, and the surrounding Southern California cities are the worst-ranked when it comes to road conditions.
TRIP reports that 63% of the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana area roads are ranked in “poor” condition. Yet lucky for me, my vehicles and the roads I frequently traverse — and lucky for America at large — one company refuses to rely on government to repair damaged roads.
That company is Domino’s Pizza (DPZ), and the fast-food delivery chain has taken it upon themselves to conduct widespread road fixes with its “Paving for Pizza” campaign.
The company is promising to partner with customer-nominated towns to fix potholes, repair road surfaces and to help provide a service that many Americans think of as the exclusive province of government.
Here’s how the Domino’s Paving for Pizza website humorously describes the project’s mission:
Potholes, cracks, and bumps in the road can cause irreversible damage to your pizza during the drive home from Domino’s. We can’t stand by and let your cheese slide to one side, your toppings get un-topped, or your boxes get flipped. So we’re helping to pave in towns across the country to save your good pizza from these bad roads.
Yes, this is tongue and cheek, but there’s nothing funny about the principle being applied here. That principle is economic self-interest, and it’s the easiest answer to anyone who argues that “without government, who would build the roads?”
The answer is: Those with an economic incentive, and those who have an economic self-interest in fixing the roads.
This is true for Domino’s Pizza, and it’s true for all of the nation’s roads, bridges, tunnels, dams, power plants, railways, etc. Those with an economic incentive, i.e. those who benefit most via the acquisition and/or maintenance of profits, can and should be the ones who build out infrastructure.
Infrastructure should not come from big government boondoggle projects that contain earmarks for powerful senators, congressmen and the pet projects in their districts, usually in exchange for a favorable vote somewhere down the line.
Now, when it comes to roads in particular, the reason they exist is to service people’s transportation needs. That need could be getting to and from work or school or getting freight of nearly every variety from one city or state to another. Or, it could simply mean getting a pizza buyer a hot product — without the delivery agent sustaining damage to his vehicle in the process.
Whatever the transportation goal, a free-market alignment of the funding of roads is what will make an infrastructure buildout more responsive to the end users. And just like in the case of Domino’s, the cost of roads and other infrastructure would be borne by those with the self-interest and financial incentive to do so.
Of course, I know the Paving for Potholes project is more publicity stunt than an actual free-market response to our nation’s infrastructure needs. Yet the fact that Domino’s is doing this does serve to demonstrate the principle that government isn’t required to do what people would otherwise do if there were not government involvement in such activities.
For bringing this realization into the public square, I am going to thank Domino’s tonight by ordering an extra-large pie with pepperoni, meatballs and extra cheese.
Finally, if you’re in a libertarian mood after reading my take on Domino’s and Pizza for Paving, then I have an event for you. It’s the upcoming FreedomFest conference, which is just a few weeks away. Here are some details on this grand celebration of liberty.
Fast Money Summit and FreedomFest One Month Away!
What to do with some of your profits? How about rewarding yourself and joining other subscribers at this year’s Fast Money Summit and FreedomFest, July 11-14, Paris Resort, Las Vegas? It starts in one month! Over 1,000 people have already signed up for “the world’s largest gathering of free minds.” If you haven’t attended, you are in for a treat, including the Tesla debate. We’ve now posted the entire schedule online at https://www.freedomfest.com/agenda-3/.
Plus, we just confirmed a new speaker. Yeonmi Park, a North Korean defector who has shared her journey to freedom in a book called “In Order to Live,” will give us her views on the impact of the historic summit between President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
Now is the time to sign up. Our discounted room block ends this week! Save $100 on the registration fee by using coupon code EAGLE100. Sign up here at www.freedomfest.com/register-now/ or call toll-free 1-855-850-3733, ext. 202.
It’s Franklin Time
“Lost time is never found again.”
— Ben Franklin
The wisdom of the Founding Fathers never ceases to amaze me. Yes, I love these men and their insights, especially the homespun proclamations of Ben Franklin. You see, the race against time is the only battle we all are destined to lose. Yet knowing this can be a beautifully liberating notion. The way I see it, knowing life is finite means I must make the most of every second. It also means I have but a short time to make a positive impact on others — and that’s what I try to do every week in this publication, and in all my writing and in all my human interactions. Reality deserves nothing less.
Wisdom about money, investing and life can be found anywhere. If you have a good quote you’d like me to share with your fellow readers, send it to me, along with any comments, questions and suggestions you have about my newsletters, seminars or anything else. Click here to ask Jim.