But Who Will Build The Roads?

by Ken Penkowski

Whenever libertarians advocate for privatization of government services, critics invariably breathlessly ask, "But who will build the roads." They think the question will stump us. Our usual answer is, "The same people who build them now. Government doesn’t build the roads. Governments hire contracting companies to build the roads for them." But what government does do, and will probably continue to do however the roads are built, is illustrated in this story from Russia. 

A recent report of a man who built a road (Russian Man Builds His Own Road When No One Else Would) is such a great example of how individuals are greater than governments. Here are eight things we should learn from Magomed Kebedov.

1. There was no good road between Kebedov's town and the next. Takeaway: Government does a poor job at identifying actual needs and allocating resources to meet those needs.

2. So Kebedov built a road. Takeaway: It is absolutely possible for individuals or private groups to supply the services that we assume only government can supply.

3. The locals have always had a good relationship with the folks at the other end of that road (even though that other town was in a different country.) Takeaway: national borders are arbitrary, imaginary lines drawn by governments. When people find the need, they socialize and trade in spite of them.

4. The national government of town A has been at war with the national government of town B. Takeaway: Free association and free trade lead to a peaceful society. Government leads to death and destruction.

5. The road builder self-financed the road’s construction. Takeaway: you do not need to take resources, under the threat of violence, from innocent people to supply community needs.

6. The government shut down the road. Takeaway: Government is interested in its power. War is useful because it justifies the need for government. So it needs more war. A privately funded and built road is a threat because it proves that government is not needed to do this and other things. That idea is more dangerous than an invading army.

7. The road builder said, of his motivations, “Every small contribution I make toward improving life in (my town) brings me happiness. It makes me richer inside.” Takeaway: Government sees the rest of us as selfish, manipulative persons whose barbaric instinct must be controlled because selfish, manipulative persons with barbaric instinct are exactly the type of people drawn to the power of government. The rest of us just want a nice life for ourselves, our families and our communities.

8. Even though the road builder now lives in a one-bedroom apartment with his cancer-afflicted wife, he skips lunch every day, putting that money toward building a local bridge and a hydroelectric project bringing electricity and heating to a school. Takeaway: As much as government tries, as much as government does, they cannot crush the beauty and tenacity of the human spirit. 

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