Lets Make Government Smaller.

Only once in a while does a political group advocate doing away with some government benefit they themselves injoy.

The majority of my pilot friends are conservatives who dislike government.  But, they do not want to pay for the many government services provided airplanes and pilots.

I’ve always been amazed at how most of the American public loves public works projects, also called infrastructure.  They often vote for infrastructure projects.

Perhaps most popular are federal highways.   When they were two lane winding highways, the federal gas tax was adequte to maintain and replace them.

But, when interstate highways came along, costs outran the revenue.  User fees now pay for less than 60% of maintanence of current interstates.

Today, much of the interstate highway system needs replacement.  There is not a source of money to pay for it.  A liberatarian group has proposed the interstates become toll roads to finance needed replacement.  It would be 3.5 cents/mile for cars, 14 cents for trucks.  Every 1,000 miles, $35.00. Current gas taxes would remain.

Tolls are a rational idea.  Neither conservative nor liberal people, however, want to pay for what they use, like streets, roads and highways.  We all want others to pay.

There is another problem with tolls.  Cars and driving are becoming less popular with young people.  The $0.035 might not be enough.

The solution is to eliminate the interstates.  Destroy them and replace with smaller roads that fit into current gasoline tax collections.

Slower traffic, yes.  But, government would be smaller.

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/09/12/202007/study-proposes-tolling-interstate.html

Avatar of Jon Lindgren

About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years.
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13 Responses to Lets Make Government Smaller.

  1. Michael Ross says:

    Go back to gravel roads, maintained locally. Cross country travel would again be a true adventure. People would stay closer to home. More family, less government.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Michael 5:24 “Go back to gravel roads, maintained locally.”

      Whatever can be paid for by drivers would be OK by me. The oldest idea in economics is, “If you tax something, don’t be surprised if you find you have a shortage, if you subsize something, don’t be surprise if you end up with a surplus.”

      With roads and cars, the is a myth they are taxed too much. The reality is they are subsidized a lot. That’s why we have a surplus of traffic and urban sprawl.

  2. dan says:

    “Slower traffic, yes. But, government would be smaller.”
    Okay. I think the point you’re trying to make is that we need a big government to maintain the roads. Sure, roads are good but what about $4.2 million of tax payers money to conduct a nebulous “National Conversation on Pluralism and Identity. The Department of Education spent $34 million supposedly helping Americans become better shoppers and homemakers. National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) spent $70,029 to see if the degu, a diurnal South American rodent, can help us better understand jet lag . . . they spent $77,826 to study “Coping with Change in Czechoslovakia” . . . $100,271 to see if volunteering is good for older people . . . $124,910 to reduce “School Phobia” in children . . . $161,913 to study “Israeli reactions to SCUD Attacks during the Gulf War” . . . and $187,042 to study the quality of life in Hawaii. Let me be the first to say that life in Hawaii probably sucks since it’s ran by Democrats. Where’s my $187,042??? So back to the road situation, we need roads but we don’t need tunnels for turtles. A smaller government is more efficient and tends to get things done quicker due to less bureaucracy. What if a business used the government’s business model? They’d gone out of business. More (productivity) with less ($$$) is the model of a successful business.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      dan 6:21 “More (productivity) with less money is the model of a successful business.”

      Exactly. The money a business spends must return value in excess of what was spent. When it economomizes, it needs to cut where the cuts yield the most imporvement in returns. Amounts in your examples are so tiny nothing will change. With streets, roads and highways, there is so much infrastructure beyond what is productive the returns have not kept up. When all were expanded, the spending on gas taxes should have generated enough tax money to both maintain and replace them. It has not come close. Roads are a lose, lose. They take up our space and give us little or nothing in return.

  3. Michael Ross says:

    “Lets Make Government Smaller.”

    I thought you were a liberal. A social liberal and a fiscal conservative? Do I have that right?

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Michael 6:56 “I thought you were a liberal. A social liberal and fiscal conservative? Do I have that right?”

      You and I have the same problem, we don’t fit in with our “clans”. I remember being a young man as a new Mayor and a white-haired liberal man befriended me. His politcal advice was for me to get behind some big public works project and make it my trade mark or brand, legacy would be the current word. I didn’t respond but thought, “I don’t believe in most of those expensive projects are good for the City. How can I do that?”

      I did endorse the Fargodome and was on TV all the time. The Fargo Forum editorial said, “If you are in doubt about voting for the Fargodome, take note that conservaitve Mayor Lindgren is for it.” Now, many people are certain I was opposed to it because I was opposed to most public works projects.

      Those incorrect memories of people make me wonder how accurate the Bible is, written by people who came along as much as 70-80 years later without much more than the memory of others who were not there either.

  4. Brad says:

    It would be an interesting experiment to get rid of the interstate highway system. It is something a lot of people take for granted. I think you would see a lot of people and businesses turning into fiscal liberals in a hell of a hurry if they suddenly had to drive from say Bismarck to Fargo on 2 lane roads, or gravel roads, or whatever.

    Why not just jack taxes up to where it will cover the cost of the roads? Politically unpopular maybe, but a whole lot more popular than not having those roads to drive on.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Brad 1:06 “Why not just jack taxes up to where they would cover the cost of the roads?”

      My guess is, that is just not polically possible for the Federal system with this Congress. A Republican Governor, Terry Bransted in Iowa, just proposed and passed higher gas taxes there. The toll system is unpopular, too, but might be an out for tea party people in Congress who pledge no new taxes. Anyway, in time they will have to find some more money.

  5. Wolfy32 says:

    Or they just finance it into the national debt loan carried by the chinese… And hope that the chinese never come to collect..

    • Wolfy32 says:

      I am curious though… What would a bankrupt US look like? Would the countries that finance our loans basically have a right to ownership of all Federal, local, or state property?

      What happens when we can no longer make the monthly interest payments out of tax dollars? Would the US bankrupt the world? OR would the world collect, gaining ownership of property and land, equivalent to 20 trillion dollars worth of property? Even if it’s privately owned?

      Just wondering, could we all be forced out of everything we own simply by the US turning everything over to a country that finances us?

      • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

        Wolfy32 2:06 “What would a bankrupt US look like?”

        Countries around the world periodically default on debt. So far as I know, there is nothing a foreign country, bank or individual can do but lose its money.

        In our country, a lot of our debt is owned by our own citizens, banks and corporations. Not much recourse there either, so far as I know. If there were a default, the government offering to pay back 50%, 10% or whatever, we’d just be out. Of course, the same thing happened after WWII, people bought savings bonds–they were “paid back” in dollars worth less than they loaned to the government.

  6. David says:

    I think you have a caricature of Conservatives that you trot out when you think it’s novel. I don’t think Conservatives are against government. Libertarians I think might like the idea of getting rid of the interstate system. I don’t really know that Conservatives would be in favor of no public roads. Public roads in this country have a historic place. The privileges and immunity provision of the Constitution contemplates the freedom to travel. It would not make much sense to be able to travel without a public road.

    I am for a government that regulates less and taxes less, but this does not mean that I’m an anarchist. I am not against all government.

    I think the interstate system is generally considered a great aspect of this country. It is certainly efficient for travel. However it has changed our country dramatically. People drive past towns they used to drive through. Coupled with the disintegration of small farms small towns have disappeared. Our sense of community has suffered. It has made tipped the balance of power to the national government to some extent as opposed to the states.

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