Around the Blogs

Monday, June 2nd, 2008
  • The people who get to determine how much New Yorkers have to pay to drive on the state’s toll roads themselves have all their tolls paid for free, for life. Even after they leave office.
  • Jacob Grier notes that the glory of Miracle Fruit has made the New York Times.
  • Glen Whitman finds an anti-smoking regulation he can support.
  • From Cato’s blog: President Bush gets religion with a half year left in his presidency, and Tim Lynch explains to NRO’s Andy McCarthy why that whole “presumption of innocence” thing is pretty important.
  • David Bernstein has a new law review article on adversarial bias and scientific testimony.
  • Remember the guy who was arrested and almost lost custody of his kid after inadvertently buying the kid a Mike’s Hard Lemonade? Apparently, the police say they made no mistakes or errors in judgment, and if given the chance, they’d arrest the guy again.
  • A military tribunal judge was apparently abruptly fired shortly after issuing a ruling unfavorable to the government.
    Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark
  • 10 Responses to “Around the Blogs”

    1. #1 |  chris horton | 

      I drive tractor trailer into NYC on a regular basis. It costs me over 100 bucks a day just to get into, and out of, any of the 5 bouroughs using these roads and bridges. Not to mention the 500 bucks a day in fuel. 4 wheelers(cars) pay a pittance in comparison! And I’m not complaining. (yet..)

    2. #2 |  Dave Krueger | 

      Just read the story about the MTA guys getting a free ride. It was inevitable that someday there would be a case of government giving itself special treatment.

    3. #3 |  Kevin | 

      One interesting thing when reading the NYC toll story is that the board members don’t get paid for their time. One would have to ask why they would want to be on the board. It certainly cannot be to get free tolls. From the sound of it, they have enough money that $10 in tolls a day would not be something they would even notice.

      Tolls are just another example of how the government increases taxes without obviously increasing taxes. If all of the taxes we pay came from one source, say income tax, we would be unhappy when we saw the percentage taken from us. So they put it in other places: Sales tax, state tax, local tax, property tax, car tax, fuel tax, tolls, fees to use parks, title taxes, registration fees, license fees, permit fees, FINES, payroll tax, police and fire fund raisers, alcohol tax, cigarette tax, extra tax in restaurants, court fees. And don’t get me started on municipal bonds…..

      In the D.C. area, there is talk of adding a lane to the beltway that would be a toll lane, so people who can afford it (who are already paying plenty of taxes, too) can get where they are going faster. Tolls just seem wrong to me. Every voter and taxpayer should have equal access to government services. Roads are government services. They should not be reserved only for those who can afford them. An acceptable transportation infrastructure is something we would have by default if our leaders were doing their jobs.

    4. #4 |  Highway | 

      On the contrary, Kevin, roadway tolls to pay off construction bonds and maintenance costs for the roadway in particular are much closer to a service fee than general taxes, and as such are far more defensible from a libertarian standpoint.

      Just because you’re paying one tax doesn’t mean that you should then be exempt from anything new. New roads are VERY expensive and getting more so every day. And people already complain that automobiles are subsidized more than other modes of transport. So ways to make motorists realize the true costs of their actions are warranted.

      I don’t disagree that there are too many taxes, and too much money taken from people for government. But toll roads are a step in the OPPOSITE direction.

    5. #5 |  asscore | 

      I want to know why the hell someone on the board is rich enough to own a 10 million dollar ferrari!

      There are no toll roads here in Wisconsin, and the reason why we hate going to illinois.

    6. #6 |  Dave Krueger | 

      Regarding the guy who accidentally gave his kid an alcoholic drink, I thank god for giving me the common sense to be born back before the state became the arbiter of all aspects of child rearing. There’s no doubt that, by today’s standards, my parents would have died in prison for letting me drink beer. That would have turned me into an orphan, making it highly doubtful that I would have grown into the warm, bubbly, innocent-natured, productive, upbeat, taxpaying member of the community that I am now.

    7. #7 |  Kevin | 

      Wow, this ended up being a long post. Kudos if you read the whole thing.

      I think tolls would be defensible from a libertarian perspective if they 1) caused a corresponding drop in general tax rates and 2) had some kind of free market controls such that they actually reduced the costs of road construction. I suspect they have the opposite effects.

      By hiding how much tax we actually pay in a confusing menagerie of taxes, fees, etc, the gov. ensures that we have no idea how much we are really paying. If we need new roads and cannot pay for it, our leaders don’t have to raise taxes and explain why we don’t have enough to pay for roads now, but we did 30 years ago. Raising taxes but calling it a toll is deceiving, we still are paying more for the same features, but our representatives don’t take as much of a hit. Fees for parks and the like are perhaps defensible, due to limited usage by a small percent of the taxpayer base. It’s seems hard to justify added fees for vital infrastructure that almost everyone uses while government and the debt continues to grow.

      If roads are getting more expensive, perhaps it is because there is more money to be had in their construction, due to the increased taxes and tolls that go to pay for them. When you are spending other people’s money, the more that’s available, the more things will cost. Reference past arguments in this blog regarding government student loans.

      ( http://www.theagitator.com/2007/01/17/student-loans/ )

      and also health care costs: ( http://www.theagitator.com/2003/08/12/a-cure-worse-than-the-disease/ )

      The result is, if the government knows it can build roads and highways using fuel tax and tolls, taxes citizens never really think about when they get their tax ‘refunds’ every year, it will be more free to spend money from the general fund on Mule Museums and conferences on whether we should call prunes: “dried plums”. In the end, while it looks like we are perhaps getting the roads we paid for in tolls, government is growing even bigger and we are spending more time stuck in traffic.

      Keep in mind, once the road is paid for, most often, the toll booths stay. As we’ve learned with social security, there’s no guarantee revenue will continue to be used for what it was intended.

      I suppose one good thing about tolls for state and local roads is that it gives the feds less leverage when allocating federal highways funds.

      On the basis that the ultimate libertarian approach to our roadways would be a free market one:

      I don’t see as feasible a free market approach to such infrastructure. And the halfway approach we are moving towards now, dividing roads into government provided versus free market is even worse, given that government still has to regulate the private roads and will likely spend more on such regulation than it would have on the roads themselves (Just envision, humorously, an entire division of the USDOT whose job is to measure potholes and regulate proper font sizes on signs on private roads) . For a fun treatment of the free market gone to excess (this is not the main them, really, but it’s still interesting) read Neal Stevenson’s Snow Crash.

    8. #8 |  Highway | 

      Kevin, I think you’re missing something: If we build a new road using tolls that are set to pay off that new road, and provide maintenance (that is why the toll booths stay up: maintaining a road is also very expensive), how would you expect other taxes, which were set based on other expenses, to be affected?

      Generally, they do not put new tolls on existing roads. And if they do, they are set for maintenance or future capital funds for that particular road.

      I agree that the ‘true’ costs of government are hidden in a miasma of taxes, tolls, fees, withholdings, garnishes, tariffs, and whatever cutesy phrase they want to use. But my point is that the tolls are generally the MOST direct fee for service that the government gets into. You drive on the road, you pay the toll. You don’t drive on the road, you don’t pay the toll. And the toll is focused on that road for debt service and maintenance. I’d want *more* of that in government, not less.

      We’ve seen that ‘starve the beast’ just doesn’t work with respect to governments. They just borrow, or fabricate, more money.

    9. #9 |  Steve Verdon | 

      The people who get to determine how much New Yorkers have to pay to drive on the state’s toll roads themselves have all their tolls paid for free, for life. Even after they leave office.

      Well, I guess that is one way to avoid the incentive problem.

    10. #10 |  Quote of the Day — President George W. Bush – blogan | 

      [...] Hat tip: Cato@Liberty via The Agitator. Mp3 from Oberon81 under Creative Commons Sampling Plus 1.0 [...]

    Leave a Reply