Potholes are like Rosie O’Donnell: obnoxious, hideous, and always cause damage.
Potholes are ubiquitous in most cities, often going unrepaired for weeks or even months. As the pothole widens and your Toyota Camry has the unfortunate luck of driving through it, your suspension is destroyed and a tire or two blows up. Finally, after a three-hour coffee break, union workers arrive to the scene, fill it up, and take another three-hour coffee break. About two weeks later, the pothole reforms, leading to the exact same results. This is life with roads built, managed, and maintained by the state.
Don’t fret. There’s relief coming to a town near you.
Domino’s to Save America’s Infrastructure
Domino’s recently announced that it wants to save America’s pizza and roads at the same time. Is there anything better than a mixture of extra pepperoni and asphalt?
The pizza chain juggernaut will partner with four U.S. cities and fix their potholes in exchange for advertising space. Once the potholes are filled in, they will showcase Domino’s logo and slogan, “Oh yes we did.”
Russell Weiner, president of Domino’s USA, said in a statement:
“Have you ever hit a pothole and instantly cringed? We know that feeling is heightened when you’re bringing home a carryout order from your local Domino’s store. We don’t want to lose any great-tasting pizza to a pothole, ruining a wonderful meal. Domino’s cares too much about its customers and pizza to let that happen.”
At first, the company will collaborate with Bartonville, Texas; Milford, Delaware; Athens, Georgia; and Burbank, California. But Kate Trumbull, VP of advertising at Domino’s, confirmed that the business is seeking out more than a dozen other jurisdictions that have a terrible pothole problem.
Domino’s isn’t the first fast-food behemoth to adopt a similar campaign. In 2009, five U.S. towns received up to $5,000 for pothole funding from KFC, which did attract negative attention from government workers, animal-rights activists, and left-leaning media outlets (Mother Jones called it “creepy”).
It might be a publicity stunt to deliver a better Hawaiian pie, but these types of PR endeavors address a serious nationwide issue. It is estimated that the U.S. needs to spend roughly $2 trillion by 2025 to rebuild roads and streets. Considering how broke so many cities and states are, it would be impossible to cover this hefty cost.
But there’s another issue that’s being brought up: government roads.
Muh Roads – Let the Market Do It
The question of “without government, who will build the roads?” has been memefied by libertarians and free market advocates on the Internet. Poking fun at the concept of “muh roads,” the laissez faire economics crowd argues that the free market can construct, operate, and maintain roads, highways, and streets – not the public-private partnership (PPP) kind, either – without the government.
And all of this can be done without coercion, too. But how? Well, you’d have to see how the market would develop a system, but some elementary schemes would be tolls, neighborhood financing, sticker systems, or advertising a la Domino’s and KFC.
In the eminent work on the subject, The Privatization of Roads and Highways, legendary economist Walter Block writes:
“This book is dedicated to my fellow Americans, some 40,000 of them per year who have died needlessly in traffic fatalities. It is my sincere hope and expectation that under a system of private roads and highways in the future, that this number may be radically reduced.”
Block, like other economists from the Austrian persuasion, encourages the privatization of every single road, from highways to byways. He also wants the private-enterprise system to take over the areas of oceans and space. It may seem radical at first since most people could never conceive of a private company owning a road because the government has been involved in this area for multiple generations. Would you believe that it’s been done before?
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as the early 20th century, much of the U.S. had immense private infrastructure. Using private stock dividend-paying subscriptions to fund the projects, companies would build and maintain highways, bridges, canals, subways, railroads, and turnpikes. You may think only greedy, penny-pinching, monocle-wearing suits were shareholders, however, according to French diplomat Alexis de Tocqueville, they were diverse:
“With but few exceptions, the vast majority of the stockholders in turnpike were either farmers, land speculators, merchants or individuals and firms interested in commerce.”
Even the most unprofitable private developments created a positive ripple effect: land values spiked, commerce was stimulated, and other expansion projects were formed.
Unfortunately, the Progressive Era arrived, and the federal government developed a centralized highway management system, effectively ending the free enterprise system in infrastructure. That said, there has been a renewed push by several states in recent years to move ahead with privatization or, at the very least, the crony PPP idea.
Moving Beyond Potholes
Let’s be honest: potholes are a first-world menace that can be frustrating to motorists and taxpayers. How many times are residents and businesses charged to refill the same pothole in a 12-month span? Of course, unions don’t want anything to change, and the left dismisses any proposal that involves private sector intervention. Napoleon economics reigns supreme in this realm.
Over the years, there have been attempts to remedy the pothole problem and save cash-strapped municipalities and states some money. One of the more headline-grabbing solutions has been the automated pothole filling machines, but they typically run into the civil servant wall, prompting politicians to shelve the initiative out of fear of losing votes in the next election.
Whatever the motive is, this is a step in the right direction for the country, especially as President Donald Trump spends $1 trillion – money that the country doesn’t have – over 10 years to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure that is ostensibly ailing. We can only hope that Domino’s and other companies can move beyond just potholes. Perhaps it’s time the country heeds the sage words of Block and Murray Rothbard and transfer the responsibility of infrastructure to corporations, neighborhoods, and the people. It’s better than what we have now – and perhaps instead of a tax bill, we get a box of pie.
Do you support Domino’s efforts to fix potholes? Let us know in the comments section!