As a libertarian, I believe that you have a right to live your life as you see fit as long as you don’t violate somebody else’s right to do the same. Libertarianism represents the only non-coercive political/economic philosophy in the universe. All other such philosophies: democracy, republicanism, monarchy, dictatorship, socialism, and communism employ the brute force (violence) of government to enforce compliance of one group’s wishes on another group.
Many Americans believe that libertarianism is an unworkable framework because without government to provide and enforce laws, society would be in chaos. Additionally, opponents of greater freedom question how the services currently provided by government would be handled in a free market environment.
It is understandable that many Americans hold these doubts about libertarianism. As a society, we are socialized through the government-dependent schools, universities, and mass media to accept that we need big government to protect us from the excesses of capitalism and freedom in general. If that doesn’t get the job done, those members of society who, for a long time, have held statist views, and are therefore closed to thinking for themselves, ridicule us for believing such “nonsense” in an effort to get us to conform. After all, normal human behavior requires that we want to be liked, or at the very least, not thought to be a weirdo.
One of the biggest questions raised against a totally free society is, who would build roads and regulate their use? Where would we be without government-provided speed limits, traffic signals, and road construction?
Well, in the early 1800s, America actually had a huge network of private roads and highways. According to Thomas J. DiLorenzo, hundreds of private road building companies invested over $11 million in turnpikes in New York, $6.5 million in New England, and over $4.5 million in Pennsylvania. By 1840, this resulted in the private production and operation of about 3,750 miles of road in New England, 4000 miles in New York, and 2400 miles in Pennsylvania. In fact, in real dollar terms, this production exceeded the interstate highway program financed and run by the federal government after World War II.
And we still have private roads in America today. Besides examples like the Reedy Creek Improvement District and Dulles Greenway, the National Bridge Inventory, a database compiled by the Federal Highway Administration, lists approximately 2200 privately owned highway bridges in forty-one states! Many of these thruways charge tolls which are fairer because they are user fees. All are proof that government is not necessarily needed to build and maintain roadways in America.