Daily Archives: July 14, 2009

Markets vs. Privacy

A libertarian named Henry Lamb paints a dire picture of what could happen if highways are universally tolled rather than funded out of gas taxes: loss of privacy, government knowing your every move, denial of mobility to those who haven’t paid their bills. “Government could control when and where people go simply by adjusting the tax rate,” warns Lamb.

The question of tolls puts libertarians in a dilemma. They know that gas taxes, though a user fee, are inefficient because they don’t give the right signals to either the users or the highway providers. Tolls are the free-market solution, but they also worry about privacy. They would like to see the roads privatized, but even a private road owner could have its records subpoenaed by the government.

Fortunately, there are several ways of designing electronic toll systems that preserve traveler privacy, two of which are described in this paper that the Antiplanner previously mentioned here. So why do writers like Lamb still freak out at the thought of toll roads?

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