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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Location: Northwest Arkansas, United States

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Michael Lewyn: A Libertarian Smart Growth Agenda

Via Trevor J. Acorn.

"Smart Growth" is often a dirty word among supporters of smaller government. For example, the Heritage Foundation's Edwin Feulner titled a recent article: "Protecting Your Property From Stupid 'Smart Growth' Socialists."

But if "smart growth" means support for more walkable, less vehicle-dependent communities, smart growth supporters and the property rights movement share a common cause on many issues relating to land use and transportation.

In particular, both movements have excellent reason to oppose numerous elements of American zoning law.

For example, both sprawl critics and libertarians should oppose government regulations that create a separate zone for every human activity....

Government spending also causes problems for libertarians and smart growthers alike. Every year, government at all levels spends over $100 billion on highways -- highways that, by facilitating development on the suburban fringe, shifts development away from older, often more walkable, communities. Every dollar spent on new and wider highways is a dollar taken from taxpayers, and every inch of right-of-way that Big Brother takes is an inch taken from landowners. So advocates of limited government have excellent reasons to favor limited highway spending.

10 Comments:

Blogger iceberg said...

Although I favor "sustainable growth", it's not the typical policy usually associated with that title. Like other misnomers such as "free trade" or "regulated", I favor the sort of policy which is the product of a free market arrangement, and implicity distrust any government policy which may or may not pretend to accomplish the same goal.

In this case, to myself, the term "sustainable growth" indicates an economy in which the growth is a result of savings and the production of real wealth, and specifically not that which results from the expansion of the money supply, a lowering of the natural interest rate, and the credit boom into malinvestment that it fuels.

I guess there is also a difference of semantics; I favor the ideal of having sustainable growth in society, and not the ineffective policies which will hinder that ideal.

May 04, 2006 9:12 PM  
Blogger Sheldon Richman said...

I'm impelled to invoke the name of the recently deceased Jane Jacobs here. She showed that an earlier generation of land-use and urban planners got us into this mess. Now a new generation of coercive social engineers is at it again. Anything but freedom, it seems.

May 04, 2006 10:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't that $100 billion figure collected mostly from gas taxes?

-Dain/Mupetblast

May 05, 2006 10:15 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

I don't think so, Dain. The ongoing costs of maintaining it may be paid mainly by fuel tax (although there's still some diversion of funds from general revenues). But I don't think that was the case with the up-front costs of building the system. And even at present, the fuel tax revenue is disproportionately light on big trucks, which cause virtually 100% of the roadbed damage.

May 05, 2006 11:13 AM  
Anonymous Wild Pegasus said...

I remember a few years ago, when I lived in Northern Virginia, that there was an initiative to raise the sales tax 1%. The money was supposed to go to widening roads and so on. Back then, people knew I was a capitalist radical and figured I'd be all for it.

"It's taxes, but it goes to economic growth. Surely libertarians accept that."
"Higher taxes for bigger traffic jams? No thanks."

- Josh

May 06, 2006 12:08 AM  
Blogger Sheldon Richman said...

I've done some research on this. The Interstate Highway System was financed by bonds later paid for from the highway fund that was fed by the federal gasoline tax. This does not the justify the system. A gas tax is not a market transaction. But it is wrong to suggest that the system was financed through general revenues. I suspect other major highways were financed similarly. Let's not forget eminent domain either.

May 06, 2006 6:39 AM  
Blogger Sheldon Richman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

May 06, 2006 8:02 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Thanks for the information, Sheldon. Some funding does come from general revenue, though, as a supplement to fuel tax revenue. For example, there was a cut a few years back in the VA budget to fund a highway bill. And trucks do not pay a share of the fuel tax commensurate with the damage they do to the road beds.

May 06, 2006 10:58 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Josh,

In NW Arkansas, Hwy 540 was built to bypass US 71, which went through the old downtown areas, and "relieve congestion." Of course, with subsidized utilities and new schools being opened up and all, 540 itself is congested with all the new traffic it generated. So now they're proposing another highway belt further to the west to "relieve congestion" from 540. Predictably, it will generate more congestion of its own than it will relieve. Eventually, we'll have highway belts all the way to the Oklahoma border to relieve the congestion from the previous efforts. When you subsidize something, people use more of it. What's so fucking hard about that for the highway planners to understand?

May 06, 2006 11:09 AM  
Anonymous Wild Pegasus said...

Yeah, that's a good one. They're forever planning more and wider highways to relieve congestion in Northern VA, and no one seems to figure out that, the more and wider the roads, the further out people will live and commute.

Granted, I wouldn't want to pay Arlington or Alexandria property taxes. Yeesh.

- Josh

May 06, 2006 7:20 PM  

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