"Posterity, you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that ever I took half the pains to preserve it." -John Adams

Welcome to Patriot's Lament. We strive here to educate ourselves on Liberty. We will not worry ourselves so much with the daily antics of American politics, and drown ourselves in the murky waters of the political right or left.
Instead, we will look to the Intellectuals and Champions of Liberty, and draw on their wisdom of what it is to be a truly free people. We will learn from where our Providential Liberties are derived, and put the proper perspective of a Free Individual and the State.
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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Anarchist Highway

Who will build the roads? I have been asked this question enough times to make my head hurt, as most free market Libertarians have. Libertarian scholars much wiser than I have  answered this question,  but the inevitable follow up is, "Is there an example you can point to where this would work?"
I think there is.
The Dalton Highway, otherwise known to Alaskans as the Haul Road, is what I think is the closest example to an Anarchist road in America.
Financed in 1974 by the State and different oil companies and built by Alyeska Pipeline Services, the Haul Road was built to service the North Slope oil fields of Alaska. Alyeska maintained the road until the State of Alaska took over this service. This "service" is such that, just this year, a 150-mile stretch of the road was so bad that 15 mph was too fast to travel. A truck driver hopped into a State road grader and did a little road maintenance himself for about 30 miles; it turned out to be the best stretch of the road. The State was quite miffed because one person did that much during a time the DOT was complaining about lack of funding (but no one will rat out the driver who did it). The trip to Deadhorse is nearly 500 miles from Fairbanks, the industry hub for the oil fields.
There is one private "truck stop" on the route at the halfway point, Coldfoot, population of about 10. In the 12 years that I have driven the route, I have seen maybe a dozen Alaska State troopers on the road. For the most part, you can travel to Deadhorse back and forth for an entire winter and not see a cop. You would think that this would mean the road is in total, constant chaos, with road rage in abundance and crime around every corner.
Not so. The truck drivers that operate on the road have an unwritten code of ethics that provides for a safe trip on an otherwise dangerous road. Every driver governs himself. While the State does have a speed limit, it is rarely followed when the road is in good condition. But when two trucks meet on the narrow roadway, they slow down to a safe speed of around 35 mph or less, so they won't "rock" each other from loose gravel on the mostly gravel road. There is no State law requiring this, but it is a soon-to-be-sorry trucker who is new to the road, who won't listen to friendly advice and who decides he wants to drive in an uncourteous manner, not slowing down when meeting oncoming traffic. If you are known to rock other trucks, the word spreads quickly, and when you meet a few trucks together, they will put the hammer down and make sure to rock your truck. Everyone on the road knows who "that guy" is; the law says he can drive 50 mph and by golly, he is going to.
After a few windshields and the paint being literally rocked off his truck, he gets the point, and becomes a courteous fellow. Social pressure at its finest.
The weather on the road can drop below -50 in the winter, and although the law doesn't require anyone to stop and help a stranded truck driver, again the word will get out that you don't want to be a nice guy. Since it is not a matter of if, but when, you yourself will break down, you put yourself in harm's way; no one will stop to help you. There is no cell phone service for about 450 miles of the trip, and AAA is out of the question. Your life literally depends on how you treat your neighbor. Company rivalries, feuds and squabbles that may happen in town, all go by the wayside. There are several accidents that happen on the road every year, and everyone stops to help. Troopers rarely, if ever, are called out, and somehow the incidents seem to take care of themselves. Within a day or so, the accident is completely cleaned up, no citations are issued, and the road continues to operate. Private insurance picks up the tab.
A couple years ago there was one nasty person who happens to be employed as a revenue officer by the North Slope Borough, known in other terms as a cop. This armed bureaucrat took his job of being a protector to great lengths, and was known to be very uncourteous, to rock oncoming traffic, to write numerous citations of protection, and was quite arrogant to others on the CB radio. He had a badge and he let you know it. He was a jerk. One fine day when the temperature was hanging around -50, his car broke down, a couple of hours from his home base of Deadhorse. No one would help him. No one even cared that he was broke down. He had to sit in his car and wait for a Borough tow truck to come rescue him. I hope he got a little chilly. He now rarely roams the road looking for people to protect. He gets it now.

When you arrive to the oilfields of the North Slope, you are required to stop at a security gate before you can gain access to the 200,000 + acre field, operated and maintained by various oil company operators. This is not a State check point, it is the entrance to a free market society. All of the roads around the oil field to the different drilling sites are built and maintained by the different oil companies.
The guards are usually very friendly and accommodating, they are private persons making a living like you. They have no weapons, (although some do carry guns for protection against bears). When you are on the field you agree to follow the posted speeds, and various traffic and safety rules that the oil companies have made. There are various security folks driving around, and they will pull you over if you are flagrantly breaking a rule. 
But no State cops.
My brother was pulled over for speeding recently, the security guy was nice, explained to him why he pulled him over and said, " I am going to write you up unless there was an emergency reason for your speeding, but there is no monetary fine or penalty involved. But I have to warn you if you get 3 of these you won't be permitted back onto the field, but you can appeal this". 
It was very cold out so my brother said, "let's go sit in your vehicle I want to talk to you about a few things". My brother got into his pickup and explained how they were engaging in a voluntary law society right then (while this guy is writing him up), and how since there was no force involved or implied, neither party felt threatened. My brother told how it was in his best interest to follow the rules so he could make a living on the oil field, and yet he wasn't forced to be there and no one was going to shoot him in the head for breaking a simple rule. A monetary loss if you decide to be stupid since you won't be allowed to work there anymore, but no force is involved, and it's all voluntary. The security guy really got the idea, and said he thought it could work in every day society as well, you have a private road, obey the rules or they don't allow you to use their property.  
My brother has commented to me that at no time has he ever felt threatened when working there, or interacting with security, and I can say I have never felt threatened either, which is a far cry from when I see flashing blue and red lights from a car of a person who wishes to give me a little State protection.
I have not heard of anyone being murdered there, in fact I have heard of little to no crime, and there are about 30,000 plus people working up there at any given time. It is its own sprawled out city.
Imagine that, a lesson in Anarchy, a free society example, being put into practice by those giant, evil, oil corporations.
The next time you see a car broken down by the side of the road, with cars speeding by consider that the Officers of Justice [sic] threaten to fine individuals not licensed by the state who try to show real compassion to their fellow men. In Alaska, you can be given a citation from the State for stopping to help someone pull their car out of a ditch. Or a fender- bender with a cop eagerly writing a citation, not so the person at fault can pay restitution to the person he hit, but so the State can get its fair share, you can thank the roadfare/welfare State, who in its infinite wisdom of owning all roads has destroyed the meaning of self-ownership of the people driving on them, and made them forget the value of their neighbor.
And when people ask you "Who will build the roads?" and insist that it just won't work, you can point to the Haul Road of Alaska, the Anarchist road of America.     

1 comment:

  1. These are interesting observations told in the form of a nice story and I'm happy I had the opportunity to read them. However, I don't think this succeeds well as a general argument for privatization of roads because the Haul Road is such a special case.

    The vast majority of drivers on the Haul Road are highly-skilled, highly-responsible professionals. They aren't teenagers, drunks, old men or women, sick, texting housewives, and so on. What happens to your code of conduct if the drivers on the Haul Road were? You seem to assume the code of conduct among your professionals will automatically (i.e., the "noncoercive" disciplinary techniques the pro's use on each other will be usable on the other types of drivers) extend to others, but I doubt it. In any event you can't simply assume such a thing as this is precisely what the type of argument you are trying to make must demonstrate.

    Also, there's a kind of "closed community" effect on the Haul Road. The same group of people are using the road over an extended period of time and have a stake in maintaining good relations with other drivers, but on most American roads this wouldn't be true. As deplorable as it is, there is often a slight advantage gained by rude or inconsiderate driving and very little or no disadvantage if done to strangers you will likely never need to rely on again.

    Finally, and I think most importantly, there is a very direct and immediate link between the haul road maintenance and profits to private companies. If the haul road was poorly maintained and this slowed or blocked shipments to the North Slope, that would be detrimental to the bottom line of corporations and this would be unacceptable. On most roads, the cost of poor road maintenance often falls back on individuals in the form of vehicle maintenance or inconvenience ( forty minutes to work when it might only take thirty means I leave forty minutes before work-- a cost to me.) People seem to find their own inconvenience acceptable if they can be convinced their taxes are kept lower this way (which I don't buy.) I also don't think your generalization of private roads being better maintained than public is always true. In the U.S. I admit it seems to be true, but what about Germany? (Which is socialist by the way.) Road maintenance there is excellent.