Petty, pedantic – and also wrong

That\’s what Ritchie tells me I am.

Which brings us to entry two in his \”Joy of Tax\” series. The things which we enjoy only because the State gets to riffle through our wallets.

What did tax do for me today?

It provided the road I drove along to take my sons out this morning.

Nothing else will ever pay for roads in a rural area.

That’s the Joy of Tax.

Hmmm:

A private road association is an organization, typically nonprofit, specializing in private roads.

….

Two-thirds of the Swedish road system is run by these organizations, which range in size from a few households to tens of thousands of households.

And there I was thinking that we should all be more like Sweden.

30 comments on “Petty, pedantic – and also wrong

  1. And vaguely related:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calum_MacLeod_%28of_Raasay%29

    After decades of unsuccessful campaigning by the inhabitants of the north end of Raasay for a road, and several failed grant applications, Calum decided to build the road himself. Purchasing Thomas Aitken’s manual Road Making & Maintenance: A Practical Treatise for Engineers, Surveyors and Others (London, 1900), for half a crown, he started work replacing the old narrow footpath. Over a period of about ten years (1964-1974), he constructed one and three quarter miles of road between Brochel Castle and Arnish using little more than a shovel, a pick and a wheelbarrow. Initial blasting work was carried out and funded, to the sum of £1,900, by the Department of Agriculture’s Engineering Department, who supplied a compressor, explosives, driller, blaster, and men.[1]

    Several years after its completion, the road was finally adopted and surfaced by the local council. By then Calum and his wife, Lexie, were the last inhabitants of Arnish.[1]

  2. For The Joy of Tax part One, I posted these:

    “I also went for a walk in a nature reserve on Sunday. It was a bit bigger than a pond on the site of an old brickworks, in a territory where income tax is 16% and the poorest 85% of the population pay no tax at all”

    and

    “As you have deleted my comment I assume that taxing the poor to provide nice Sunday walks to well off people such as yourself is a good thing”.

    Both deleted so I assume that taxing the poor around the UK to provide nice green areas for rural Norfolk folk is ok.

  3. “Nothing else will ever pay for roads in a rural area.”

    This is a bit like the NHS and schools. Statists seem to thing that there was first a black nothingness, and then lo! The Politicians created the world in 6 days and everything was funded through centralised taxation and spending.

    Far from it.

    Britain’s road network used to be maintained via Turnpike trusts.

  4. What did tax do for me today?

    It provided the road I drove along to take my sons out this morning.

    It also provided some lovely, usually empty roads along Spain’s south coast of questionable benefit to the majority of Britons. Is that a joy of tax?

  5. It’s amazing that our road, which is Roman, survived until the Ineffable Joy of the Coming of Socialism.

  6. Turnpike trusts?Ever heard of the Rebecca Riots?People loathed the turnpike trusts.They don’t think much of unadopted roads now either ; more of them than you might think and not all like the Betjeman ones in A Subaltern’s Love Song. Undrained, unlit: people feel trapped by them.
    Lets hear it for the ultimate: private fire brigades.

  7. About what did Tax do to me today?
    It paid for other people to afford to rent nicer homes than I can, even though I work and they don’t.

    It also pays the Spanish to over fish in African water etc.

  8. Missing the point as ever, DBC. The sugggestion is not that private funding for roads will lead to vehicular heaven on earth, only that it happens, and gets the job done well enough, in the real world. But to take up what you think is a reduction ad absurdum, but isn’t, private fire brigades would be perfectly feasible. (They used to be all there was, run by insurance companies – and yes, I know what the drawbacks were if you weren’t insured.) The RNLI can rescue sailors in distress with no government money; a private fire brigade, with appropriate public service obligations, could equally well rescue my cat from a tree, and put out fires,

  9. @Chris
    The drawbacks still applied if you were insured: houses nearby that were not insured caught fire
    and pretty soon whole blocks went, insured and uninsured.The competitive system worked wonders. In NY crews in competition fought pitch battles over the hydrants (not supplied by the private fire brigades) and the houses burnt down before a hose could be attached.
    This used to be the rationale behind public health provision:it was no use providing for you own health insurance if diseases took hold among the uninsured lower orders and spread to epidemic proportions.
    People do not think unadopted roads do the job well enough.Look it up on the Net.There are constant campaigns by the residents for such ill maintained ,pot-holed tracks to be taken over by the council.In some places the law of the land does not appear to apply and people block them with parked cars: no double yellow lines because no surface.
    Less of the condescension and all.

  10. “There are constant campaigns by the residents for such ill maintained ,pot-holed tracks to be taken over by the council.”

    But those are merely campaigns to get OTHER people to pay for what they are unwilling to pay themselves.

    There is never any reason why the householders adjoining an unadopted road should not join together and pay for the maintenance etc. It’s just they want it done at no cost to themselves.

  11. Pingback: Oh Joy: Tax « Neil Reddin … No G

  12. DBC Reed // Aug 23, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    “Turnpike trusts?Ever heard of the Rebecca Riots?”

    Turnpike trusts continually expanded their remits, built up debt and made excuses to continue charging rather than sticking to the original idea – a 21 year period in which to fund a good quality road after which responsibility for the road would pass to parishes.

    That was a problem of unchecked authority not of toll roads.

  13. “It provided the road I drove along to take my sons out this morning.”

    Presumably, then, before socialism delivered its tarmac utopia unto us, people used to levitate around the place?

  14. DBC, if toll roads are so terrible in your opinion, then remember that those socialistic French have operated them to great effect on their excellent autoroutes for decades.

  15. @JP
    Toll roads and road user fees are horribly regressive : some poor bloke in a Ford Fiesta has to drive miles every day to work and pays the same as Bonnington Jagworth in one of those high -speed cars that are slavered over so repulsively on Samizdata. The answer is of course that the places where good road links are in place experience a rise in property prices which can be tapped by LVT to pay for the capital and running costs of the roads many times over.

  16. DBC, while I would agree that LVT is one of, if not the, best way of financing residential roads, I have to disagree that road user fees are regressive when applied to motorway and trunk routes.

    If you had both LVT and widespread toll roads and you suddenly removed the tolls, you would, as you point out, increase land values and pass the costs onto the landholder. In principle, I don’t see why it is preferable to pass the cost from the motorist to others, who are potentially not motorists, in that way.

  17. @PL Am having trouble dealing with the hypotheticals. If (a more common hypothetical ) , a new road is built accessing somewhere nice or well-off ,land values would go up.It would surely be not unreasonable to ask the householders who have received an unearned capital gain in the value of their property to pay some of it back .( Ihave also maintained that LVT should be called a Social Value Repayment, to zero effect).It would be better to make people repay the” unearned increment” so tending to lower house prices so that the benefits of the infrastructure are not denied newcomers to the area by the existing population who are being gifted many thousands of pounds in raised capital values which they then try and gouge out of the new people.

  18. @PL
    Struggling to follow this caveat.If the householder qua homeowner receives an unearned capital gain from the nearness of a good road,it does not matter if he is a motorist or not. ( Isuppose the motoring homeowner would also benefit from the better roads but if there were toll booths he would also lose out resulting in an equilibrium) Tell you the truth I don’t get the problem ( how my two statements are essentially different)

  19. DBC,

    you seem to have created a false dichotomy of either LVT or road tolls.

    Your first comment was based on an either or choice between LVT and road pricing, when you could, of course, have both.

    Your second comment was based on an assessment of the merit of using LVT to balance out state created benefits, without an assessment of whether or not those benefits should be given in the first place.

    You’re, in a roundabout way, attempting to say that we should have LVT without road tolls, without giving any reason why we shouldn’t have both.

  20. @PL
    You’re right. I can’t see why you should have LVT and road tolls. The whole theory of who benefits and who should pay is different and anyway you are levying people twice over in an overkill kind of way.

  21. DBC, still as economically illiterate as ever. So tolls are “regressive”? No: in France, with its highly progressive income tax regime and generous welfare cover, I fail to see what is wrong about forcing owners of vehicles to pay up. The bigger the car and the bigger the engine, the more you pay in petrol, which is taxed, so that needs to be taken into account.

    In any event, there is no “right” to own a car and so if not everyone can afford a set of wheels, that is not a matter that needs to be corrected by the state in some way.

    I see that even Mr Lockett realises that you were over-reaching on trying to drag LVT into this disucssion. Fail!!!

  22. DBC: “You’re right. I can’t see why you should have LVT and road tolls.”

    No, I said that you hadn’t given any reason why we SHOULDN’T have both, something I still can’t see.

    “The whole theory of who benefits and who should pay is different”

    Yes, they are, but doesn’t mean they are mutually exclusive. Where would you stop with your approach; would you want to establish free, take-all-you-want, supermarkets in each area and roll up the cost into LVT? The principle is pretty much the same.

    “anyway you are levying people twice over in an overkill kind of way.”

    you wouldn’t be levying people twice, because the presence of a toll would mean that the LVT would be reduced by the value of having a free at the point of use road.

  23. I take it as a compliment to be called economically illiterate by Mr Pearce – a person who can’t even spell his first name right.
    Road tolls act as a tax on travel without taking any account of a person’s ability to pay; so regressive when people have to go through the toll booths to work (do not have any choice about using the road ).
    He seems to be arguing that France has toll roads: France has a highly progressive income tax regime so therefore toll roads are also highly progressive.Hmnn.
    @PL I was trying to make the point that you could n’t have LVT and toll roads at the same time,but you have gone to some trouble to make the same point and use it against me!
    You start of by saying I have n’t explained” why we should n’t have both” (toll roads and LVT )then proceed to give an obvious reason why we should n’t.

  24. DBC,

    I’m afraid you’re completely wrong; I’ve done exactly the opposite of what you claim. I’ve pointed out that you CAN have LVT and toll roads at the same time and I’ve given reasons why doing precisely that is a good idea.

  25. @PL Have you? You have pointed out that the resence of toll roads would tend to reduce the LVT tax take so the two were incompatible.
    Contrariwise if you had full LVT repayment of land – values enhanced by free roads,you would n’t need regressive tolls.
    Can’t see your problem.
    Sorry ,you have nowhere indicated why having a toll road and LVT at the same time is a good idea .You introduced the idea of having both in No 17 above to make the obvious point that if you got rid of tolls, land values would go up but there is no kind of justification of having both .
    I have no wish to be difficult ,since you have in the past made some good pro LVT comments ,particularly in the controversy on the subject on Samizdata , when funnily enough I remember Mr Pearce as a genial open-minded soul.

  26. “@PL Have you? You have pointed out that the resence of toll roads would tend to reduce the LVT tax take…”

    I’ve certainly said that.

    “…so the two were incompatible.”

    I’ve certainly not said that.

    I believe they are perfectly compatible. A bit like the supermarket analogy, if a local authority took it upon itself to provide unlimited electricity free at the point of use to every house, that too would push up land values and increase the LVT take, if LVT were in place. Just as with roads, I don’t see that as giving any indication that metered electricity and LVT are incompatible.

    “You introduced the idea of having both in No 17 above to make the obvious point that if you got rid of tolls, land values would go up but there is no kind of justification of having both .”

    The justification I presented their was that it would see the bulk of the cost being borne by the people using the road, rather than it being spread more widely. Another benefit is that the presence of a price mechanism would manage congestion and use more effectively than a free for all.

  27. @PL
    So a price mechanism if useful for reducing congestion : weeding out the undeserving who are readily distinguishable by having no money?Or are distinguishable by having to commute ,not being able to afford to live near where’e there’s work (which pushes up property prices.) So some geezer who is forced to live out in the cheaper suburbs not only is disincentivised by long costly journeys ,he also has to pay a toll?

  28. DBC Reed:”@PL So a price mechanism if useful for reducing congestion : weeding out the undeserving who are readily distinguishable by having no money?”

    I could reverse that and say that providing free at the point of use motorways is useful for forcing the poor out of the areas which are accessible from them, as it increases rents, house prices and if it is in place, LVT.

    “Or are distinguishable by having to commute ,not being able to afford to live near where’e there’s work (which pushes up property prices.) So some geezer who is forced to live out in the cheaper suburbs not only is disincentivised by long costly journeys ,he also has to pay a toll?”

    I don’t think that argument holds together that well. For a start, commuting tends to be associated with higher levels of wealth, not lower. It doesn’t tend to be the suburbs which are cheaper, but the inner city areas around centres of employment. In any case, if your scenario were valid in a specific example, by removing the tolls, you’d increase LVT rates in the area, so the commuter may well end up paying the same amount, but in a different way.

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