Controlling Growth, the Libertarian Way
Libertarians as a rule have never been in favor of spending public tax money on roads, water or sewer systems, and some have even doubted the wisdom of expenditures for police and fire protection. Because these things are provided by local government in almost every city and town in America, this view has been derided as unrealistic, impractical, excessively idealistic, etc.
Perhaps. But today we more clearly perceive the negative long-term consequences of allowing government to provide these things:
- Government subsidies for roads have masked the true cost of the automobile by supplying the necessary infrastructure apparently "free" to the driving public.
- Government subsidies for utility infrastructure have artifically lowered the cost of new development.
- Government zoning laws have partitioned cities into enclaves of rich and poor, and geographically separated areas of work, housing, and shopping, contributing to traffic congestion.
In the free market, cost is a regulating factor. As something becomes scarce, its price rises until demand for it tapers off. All that is necessary to reduce the rate of residential or commercial growth is for prices to rise to the point where demand begins to disappear.
One step toward this goal, which I would introduce into the Legislature my first year in office, is to allow any county or municipal government to refuse to provide necessary infrastructure such as streets, water, sewer, or flood control, for any new development. Such infrastructure would have to be provided (in a way that would meet all code requirements) by the developers at their expense. Presumably the cost of these items would then be reflected in the purchase price of the resulting homes or offices, and would be paid for by the new owners. In exchange, the new properties would be exempted from that portion of property or sales taxes that is directed at paying for such construction. Maintenance would also be contracted for by homeowners' associations or other cooperatives within the new development area, and paid for out of association dues rather than taxes.
This may not, by itself, be sufficient to stave off more growth than a given community is willing to permit. But at least it would absolve any local government from being forced to actively subsidize new development.
For a more involved discussion of my ideas on these subjects, please see my article Growth and the Free Market