…Alex is asking the American public to give our trustworthy government monopoly pricing power over our ability to get around…We also would have to give that same government knowledge of our daily movements….
Ouch, that really hurts! (The debate so far, Tyler I, Alex 1, Tyler II). Tyler seems to forget, however, that government already taxes gasoline (and automobiles, motorcycles, airplanes – even bicycles). Perhaps we should eliminate these taxes but no one thinks much of the argument that we shouldn’t put a price on bicycles because this lets the government (and bicycle manufacturers) control “our ability to get around.” Road pricing is no different on this score.
The privacy argument is a complete non-starter. Singapore, for example, is rarely considered a bastion of privacy yet its system allows drivers to be fully anonymous. The Singapore system is simple. Drivers buy a cash card, much like a copy-card, and every car has a reader. As the cars move under a gantry the system deducts the toll from the card. No identification is ever necessary. (Only scofflaws who drive under the gantry without enough money on their card have their license plate photographed – a bill is then sent to the owner of the car. Exactly the same system we have here in Virginia at many traffic lights.)
All this is not to say that we shouldn’t be wary of government inefficiently using road prices as a revenue source, but this problem is hardly unique to roads and for those who really worry about government note that road pricing is a necessary first step toward road privatization.