US President Barack Obama announced on Labor Day that he’s seeking $50 billion federal dollars to “fix 150,000 miles of roads, lay or rebuild 4,000 miles of railroad track and refurbish some 150 miles of airport runways.” While having markets develop infrastructure is extremely valuable, as it minimizes waste and aggressive behavior through torts, one should oppose transportation subsidies of this nature because they’re an unjust transfer of wealth from working people to the economic elite.
Transportation subsidies are pro-corporate, and not just for the contracts to create and maintain the infrastructure. They effectively hide the true cost of transporting distant goods by socializing the costs amongst all citizens.
I personally don’t drive on roads in South Dakota, nor do I even use most of the roads in Arizona, but myself and all of my neighbors are forced to support them financially. In fact, I hardly ever use the interstate highway system except for sporadic road trips. Truckers, who are seemingly always changing lanes in front of me, deliver freight for an overwhelming majority of the year, but are responsible for the same $161 out of the $50 billion that every individual American taxpayer is.
Now surely it is clear that the consumer is going to pay for the transportation of goods eventually, as every market actor seeks to minimize their own expenses by passing the buck. However, with financial assistance to distant firms, the American state is making it ever more difficult for local and regional businesses to compete with large well-established corporations. This government behavior also tragically removes the ability for consumers to choose for themselves who to support in a fair marketplace.
Without subsidies, prices for products would reflect the true costs of transportation and thus a new spirit of localism might be inspired purely by normal market processes. That inspiration would no longer depend exclusively upon the willpower and conscious consumerism of localists.
As a libertarian, I absolutely respect every individual’s right to peacefully trade his or her produce with any other person. However, I do not think the American state should take money from all taxpayers and then give it to businesses as a subsidy. Taking money from innocent people, even when the government does it through taxes, and then coercing them into paying for something which they don’t want, never asked for, or don’t agree with morally, is incredibly unjust. Any system of societal organization built upon this principle should be decisively rejected.
Eliminating this policy of indirect subsidies to big business would do much to economically incentivize community members to spend their dollars locally, and would challenge those businesses which are successful due to artificial advantages given to them through government power rather than by serving their customers well. Contrary to popular belief, the end of this anti-freedom policy is a basic way in which freeing the market would disempower America’s dominant corporate interests. Will this policy be eliminated? That seems doubtful. The things reasonable people see as its harms are basically the purpose of government in the eyes of the ruling class.