Improve Transportation by Ending Subsidies for Automobiles

Many drivers think that gas tax (or their car-related taxes in general) more than cover the costs of infrastructure of cars. The reality is quite the opposite. People who don’t drive subsidize those who do. In terms of infrastructure itself we have spent more money on roads than on other forms of transit.

This combination of policy and infrastructure has created societies that use cars too much and in dangerous ways. The costs of pollution from cars is shared by everyone and the land used for cars (highways, parking lots, etc.) means that land can’t be used for other purposes. That’s just two ways that society subsidizes car ownership. We all pay for drivers to drive. We should stop.

Driving is a choice, and provided that drivers pay all the costs associated with making that choice, there’s little reason to object to that. After all, very few people think that a zero car world is one that makes a lot of sense. Low-car makes much more sense that non-car as a policy talking point. How do we get people to make these choices. There’s an analogy here to alcohol. We tried prohibition in the twenties. It was moral absolutism, zero tolerance. Alcohol in any amount was evil. That didn’t work.

When we experienced the epidemic of drunk driving, we didn’t go back to prohibition. Instead, we raised penalties to make drivers more responsible, set tougher limits on blood alcohol content, and put more money into enforcement. People still drink—but there’s a different level of understanding of responsibility and consequences, and fewer people drive drunk.

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2 thoughts on “Improve Transportation by Ending Subsidies for Automobiles

  1. We never had children. Yet we’ve paid for schools both through provincial taxes and special municipal surtaxes for 50 years.

    Your argument is specious. Either we live in a society or we don’t. Bringing up scenarios and bleating that you aren’t responsible for that particular cost because you don’t participate is redonkulous.

    Alberta talked about leavng Canada because all that oil was theirs, not Canada’s, and they wanted all the lovely moolah just for themselves. To hell with everyone else.

    Tomorrow, I shall enjoy driving on roads you’ve partly paid for. For goodness sake think thngs through.

  2. Hi Bill,
    I see your point, and I agree that living in a society means sometimes giving for a cause that doesn’t relate to you. That said, there are different causes that you can put your money and resources towards. Education for children is generally regarded as a good thing, as those children will be the people that go into society some years later. As long as you don’t have an excess of children (and I don’t think you do in Canada), then educating them should be a reasonable cost that society should bear.
    Similarly, roads are a public good: as a lot of people live in distant areas, they need cars in order to lead reasonable lives in the contemporary world.
    But a lot of people living in urban areas overuse cars, and in order to do that they benefit from non-drivers without giving anything back to society.
    What do you think about that?

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