Libertarianism on the Road


Yet another Randall O’Toole blog post hosted by the Cato Institute that bafflingly fails to acknowledge any government role in promoting the usage of private automobiles.

But in addition to the obvious point that the government builds and operates the roads that cars drive on (just like the dread transit!), the “choice” of what mode of transportation to take is systematically structured by public policy. Square footage of housing and office space is quite expensive in most of the walkable, transit-oriented places in the United States but there are large regulatory impediments to building most such places. Indeed, parking regulations often mean that the physical structures of existing walkable neighborhoods are illegal to replace. Now naturally if you make a rule that low-density facilities with lots of parking spaces are the only kinds of places people can build, then everyone will “choose” to live and work in such places and then “choose” to drive around them.

What’s incredibly frustrating about this is that if Cato wanted to make an argument that progressives should be more open to free market thinking, the realm of transportation and urban planning offers a lot of good examples. But instead of giving us those examples, they give us a lot of Randall O’Toole—a walking, talking example of why you often can’t take free market political rhetoric seriously.