08 April 2008
Libertarian Transport Policy
Rob Fisher

The new UK Libertarian Party has a transport section in their manifesto.  It’s something of a living document and may change over time, but there are some interesting ideas.  This one could be controversial, it’s a bit like what the Australians are trying but perhaps the truckers will be placated by the abolition of income tax:

We will end the indirect subsidy of road freight. This may require retention of a form of distance-based road pricing for HGVs, which in 38-tonne form, do 10,000 times more damage to roads than a 1 tonne car.

I like this bit best:

Motorists and riders should have the right to make their own choices on their use of safety equipment; insurance companies should have the right to charge additional premiums (or decline cover) to those who do.

These parts sound like a good opportunity to properly privatise rail, although I don’t fully understand the current situation (does anybody?)

Disband the cartel of the rolling stock leasing arrangements.  Resolve geographic monopoly that is the rail tendering mechanism.

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  1. Ah, but if we are proper libertarians shouldn’t we be privatising the roads?  And, I might add, let the owners charge and regulate them anyway they like?

    And, I don’t have much of a problem with geographic rail “monopolies”.  Rail as a mode has plenty of competition from road, air and staying at home.  If it didn’t why would it need so much subsidy?

    (I am using “need” in the political sense rather than the economic one.  Any rail concern that is making a loss should be closed down.)

    All of this serves to illustrate one of the major difficulties with any libertarian party - agreeing on a manifesto.

    Posted by Patrick Crozier on  09 April 2008 at 05:02 am

  2. I wonder why this one:

    “Undertake a review of existing, proposed and potential road charging schemes. In principle, we are against charging for non-freight vehicles.”

    Is that a compromise to not turn everyone off the party or something?  Roads aren’t free, for anyone.  Sure, figure out pricing per vehicle size, projected damage, mileage, whichever, but not exempt a whole class of vehicles, especially the majority of users.  They say end the subsidy of freight, but they’re swinging the other way to a subsidy of everything else.

    Posted by Highway on  09 April 2008 at 07:00 am

  3. Road privatisation: yes, I agree.  Geographic rail monopoly: good point.  When I saw “resolve...tendering mechanism” I was thinking more about the problem of having to continually re-apply for permission from the government to run your service.  A free market in running train services would do both.

    Diffuculty of agreeing the manifesto and compromises:  indeed.  I think they are going for a gradual roll-back of the state rather than anything sudden, so what they would do in their first term would be a lot less than their ultimate aims.  Personally I could vote for anyone who would reduce the size of the state from what it is now, and keep voting for them until they stopped reducing the size of the state.

    Posted by Rob Fisher on  09 April 2008 at 12:09 pm

  4. I think that is precisely the point.  Any Libertarian Party must be committed to decisive reductions in the size of the state.  They don’t have to abolish it all in one go but the direction has to be clear.

    Posted by Patrick Crozier on  10 April 2008 at 06:18 am

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