Michael Kinsley, in his typically vacillating fashion, comes out (or seems to come out) in favor of charging for the use of roads:

When I worked for the Economist magazine 14 years ago, congestion charges were a hobbyhorse of that free-market publication. They were considered the epitome of hard-nosed business thinking about public problems. But the London plan was put in place by Mayor Ken Livingstone, a hate-figure known as “Red Ken” among British conservatives. As a consequence, the congestion charge is often attacked by conservative politicians and publications as Big Government at its worst….The main objection is that charging for something that used to be free is unfair to those who can’t afford it or who find it a burden. [Michael Kinsley, Slate.com, 4/24/03]
You call this an argument? Who gives anybody the right to demand that their wants be fulfilled free of charge?

This is the government charging money for the very purpose of making an activity cost more than most people are willing to spend. You can see it as making people buy something–the right to drive in the middle of town–that used to be free. Or you can see it as allowing citizens to buy something–an easy commute–that formerly was unobtainable at any price….You can decide for yourself if you’d rather have $8 or an easy commute. You cannot decide that you’d rather give up your share of the congestion charge revenue and have your old crowded commute back. That option has been closed off. Democracy is good for decisions that must be made collectively. But it is not as good as letting each of us decide for ourselves, where possible….This deal is collective or not at all. It still strikes most citizens as a bad deal. But with a bit of marketing, that could change.
The absurdity of the discussion results from the premise that roads are and should be public property and subject to collective decision-making. In a proper society, roads would belong to private owners, who would have the right to set the terms for the use of their property, and society as a whole would have no say.

(Incidentally, Kinsley in the same article also favors–or seems to favor–allowing for compensation of transplant donors: “We think it’s terrible that he has to make that choice, but we’re not offering a third alternative. We’re just forcing him to take what he thinks is the worst of the current two.” Hey, Michael, isn’t there a principle under here?)

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