Determining responsibility for public utilities etc.
This is one of the thorniest subjects that I have attempted to tackle, but after the crap about “you did not build that”, I think it is time to take the nonsense that has come from Elizabeth Warren and her ilk to task. For several years there have been some very dense people who have raved on about such things as responsibility for the building of roads, and quite obviously they are the ones who have it all backwards – because they are in fact ignorant when it comes to commercial law and its origins in England. The US laws are in fact based upon the English Common Law and it is the same here in Australia. I will therefore touch upon this subject based upon an historical perspective and overview.
In the pre-industrial England, the villages had what is known as the Common Green. Obviously the Common Green was owned by everybody in the town. At the same time most roads were not considered to be private property. I feel certain that there are very likely legal cases where the access to what was considered to be private roads was disputed. Also, England had some toll roads, where people had to pay the owner to access the road. The USA and Australia both have a mix of public roads and toll roads. I have been on some of the roads leading from Pennsylvania and into New Jersey where a toll was charged every so many miles. The money collected from the tolls was used for the upkeep of the road. If memory serves me at all, I can also remember that there were roads in and around Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York State. (I cannot remember the exact location because we were on a train when we passed the particular road). There are many, many examples of toll roads in the same region. Here in Australia we also have toll roads which have served a similar purpose – the government provided the funds for the road e.g. Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Harbour Tunnel, the M4, and the F3 being examples – and the motorist paid a toll to help pay off the debt relating to the building of the road. Some recent roads have been funded and built by private companies (such as the M2 and the M7) but with the government’s approval. Either way government is involved with the decision making with regard to these roads.
We pay taxes for the purpose of funding the building of these roads. We also pay taxes and levies to fund the fire brigades, ambulance services, police etc. etc. These are public utilities and services. That is why taxes are properly used to fund such services. Here in Australia we do not have the more local level of police that one finds in the USA. It is the State Government that provides the service throughout each State. There is another branch of policing that is the Australian Federal Police which deals with both the ACT and anything that might happen overseas. That service is paid out of our income taxes and the budget is provided at the Federal level.
The true absurdity has to be when people fail to recognize that our taxes are paying for what are services that cater for public use, not private use. People like Elizabeth Warren fail to make the distinction between what is public and what is private, in an effort to obsfuscate the truth. What it really shows is that people like Elizabeth Warren who is supposed to have some economic nous are in fact quite ignorant of the historical perspective with regard to what is private and what is public, thus they come to what I consider to be extremely stupid conclusions regarding “you did not build that”, or at least comments along the line of “you did not build the roads that help your business” are extraordinarily stupid, because business pay taxes and the taxes are used to build the roads, thus the businesses have in fact contributed to the building of the roads.
Government did not build the railways, but private individuals did. In some cases government took over the running of the railways (this is true in Australia) but eventually the ownership has been returned to the private sector. Keeping to the Australian example, the first lines that were built included the St. Kilda line and the Port Melbourne line which were built by private enterprise. However, having private enterprise building the railways had its own difficulties because of the differences being used in gauge. I doubt it was necessary for government to take over the railway lines except for a few things: (1) the Great Depression and the Depression of the 1890s had impacted upon the owners of the railways (2) the need for a uniformity in the gauge. (3) the railway system just like the road system was in use by the public at large. It should be noted that in the last 10-20 years the ownership has reverted to private hands. Government could have handled some of those issues differently, simply by legislating the requirements for building a railway line for use by the public.
Basically, what I am saying is that those who make those arguments are the ones who lack logic in what they are saying because they are the ones who have not delved into the historical perspectives including case law on the subject.