Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Bridges One Week Later

It's been a week since the collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis. Are we any closer to preventing similar collapses of the nearly 70,000 other bridges that are "structurally deficient?"

Some would say it's too soon to expect answers. But the question was not raised for the first time one week ago. Indeed, it was asked over 200 years ago. And politicians who took an oath to "support the Constitution" and yet ignored the answer are to blame for the loss of lives on U.S. highways every day of the year.

The Constitution is a document of enumerated powers, meaning that the federal government rightfully exercises only those powers which are expressly delegated to it by The People in the Constitution. The Constitution does not give the federal government the power to build bridges.

James Madison, "the Father of the Constitution," along with Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, John C. Calhoun, Andrew Jackson, and other men who wisely bound the government down "by the chains of the Constitution," urged rejection of proposals to use government funds to build highways for the benefit of private businesses. That job was left to those in the business of providing transportation for the benefit of businesses: the Turnpike Companies of early America, which built thousands of miles of roads and proved their ability to do a job now done by the government.

When businesses must pay for roads, they don't tolerate such things as "the bridge to nowhere," ordered by and for the benefit of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens and nobody else. And the wisest of the Founding Fathers recognized the injustice of taxing all to pay for roads which benefit only a few, such as roads that go nowhere except to the business owned by a politician's favorite campaign contributor.

When FDR originally conceived of the Interstate Highway System (of which the collapsed I-35 bridge is a part), he thought three east-west and three north south routes would be sufficient. Obviously Roosevelt was completely mistaken about the demand for highways. Are politicians ever able to out-forecast hundreds, thousands, or even millions of informed consumers and entrepreneurs? Never. Then why should they be in charge of their planning and construction?

When the Interstate Highway System finally became a reality, it was announced as The National Defense Highway System. During the Cold War, Eisenhower envisioned nuclear missiles roaming around the nation on the Interstate Highways, making tougher targets for the Soviets to hit, even if they were more likely to obliterate some American suburb in an accident.

Most people have give little or no thought to how private companies can provide transportation; the reigning assumption is that this is something only the government can do.

Now, as the dead are still being recovered from the Mississippi River, we see that it's just one more thing the government cannot do very well at all.

Liberty and the Public Sector: Streets and Roads

Bridge Collapse: Part of Road to Ruin

Pro Libertate: The Imperial Collapse

Property owners steamrolled by highwaymen Business solutions from

Prof. Walter Block on Privatizing Roads

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