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Department of Transportation, a Government-Run Necessity?

Pa Department of Transportation
Pa Department of Transportation

Every single day there are millions of people driving from place to place in this country. We drive on state, county, township and a number of other government funded motorways. And yet, we do not think about the implications of the government essentially having a monopoly over this huge part in every American’s life. This is something that I have just recently been thinking about because honestly, it has never really been presented to me. I will focus on the Pennsylvania road system in this article because it is very familiar to me and I see it as one of the most problematic in the country.

As many may know, Pennsylvania has some of the worst roads and bridges in the country and this has been a problem for many years. Currently the Keystone State has 9000 miles of roads in need of repair and 4,000 structurally deficient bridges. This however, is surely not a problem with the amount of spending that Pa does on its roads. You might think with all of these damaged bridges and roads, Pennsylvania has just not been spending enough money on them. Well, unfortunately the spending on transportation has already doubled in the past 20 years from $3 to around $6 billion. And that's not all, in the past month, the Pa government signed into law a new bill that would raise motorist fees and gas prices amongst other things to pay for a $2.3 billion transportation bill.

Now lets think about this, has continually raising spending worked for us before? The fact that Pa has the roads that it has speaks for itself. Corbett has been quoted as saying that it will hopefully boost the economy and he hopes that it will energize his seemingly hopeless re-election campaign. This bill could raise gas prices up to 28.5 cents per gallon at the pump not to mention paying more for licenses, registration and various traffic violations. The gas tax does nothing good for the economy because unlike a price rise that accumulates for a producer, a tax like this does not provide any kind of incentive for the supply of gas to increase or productivity to improve.

Another problem that I see here is like said above, the apparent government monopoly over the roads that does nothing but spend spend spend. It is humorous that the government constantly cautions about businesses becoming monopolies and being able to raise prices with no opposition, and yet they do this to us in so many ways. Would it be too preposterous to ask why we have not turned to the free market to fix the problem that Pennsylvania constantly has with their roads and bridges? Could we be spending less on roads and bridges in Pa? At the very least, we should be contracting out the work to the lowest and most qualified bidder for the roads and bridges. At least in this scenario, there would be some competition that would drive more productive and efficient work being done with the winning companies successful bid on the project.

To even push this idea even further, what would be the implications of seeing the effects of a full privatization of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation? In this scenario, we would be paying nothing to the government and we could be ensured that the power of the free market would be driving the businesses into competition for having the most well-kept roads and bridges. There would need to be some costs to be paid by the consumer, but we can almost be sure that it would not be the same kind of wasteful spending that we constantly see when we leave something to be done by the government.

These are the questions that should be demanded to be asked by any taxpayer who is tired of the government constantly trying to justify new taxes or fees for something that they claim that will be much better if we just pay more money for it. The mindset that the government has to be there to run all of these agencies and departments should be questioned more and more when we are continually seeing more debacles by the government with things like Social Security and healthcare. As American citizens, we should push for change of the wasteful spending from Harrisburg, Washington, and governments all around the country. But until we begin to question their motives seriously and publicly, nothing can or will be changed.