Dear Dr. Boli: Why is it that almost all our roads and highways are opened free of charge to all and sundry, whereas trains and streetcars, which are much more efficient in terms of cost per person carried, demand payment from passengers? —Sincerely, A Woman Without a Car.

Dear Madam: It is because rail transit is a human construction, whereas highways, like rivers and seas, were made by God, probably on the third day of creation (see Genesis 1:9-13). At least that is the only explanation Dr. Boli can come up with.


  1. Jared says:

    Perhaps, for consistency’s sake, the government should allow access to laid track free of charge, provided, of course, that citizens own and operate their own trains.

  2. C. Simon says:

    Free gas? Where?

  3. mythusmage says:

    Gas is produced by everyone, with the right ingredients.

  4. Roads are never free of charge, as to be driving on them one must be in a car, and cars mean annual state license plate and driver’s license fees, and often a separate city sticker vehicle-tax fee. Nearly all cars run on gasoline, which is so heavily taxed that there are often several overlapping jurisdictions (city, county, state, federal), all of whom get a larger share of your per-gallon payment than the greedy and rapacious oil company…without doing nearly as much to locate, drill, pump, refine, and transport the resulting gasoline to your local filling station. The local gas station owner, meanwhile, makes so little off each gallon that he effectively gives away gas for free to attract customers who buy the beef jerky, cigarettes, and stale Twinkies for sale at his counter.

    Sidewalks, on the other hand, are indeed free to use, if only because the expense of fencing them off and installing coin-operated turnstiles at every crosswalk would far outweigh any revenue to be gained by such devices without charging such hefty per-block access charges to incite open revolt…which itself would be prohibitively expensive, even by government standards.

    But there is a tremendous missed opportunity here. Perhaps governments can redress their perennial fiscal deficits by applying, not the toll-road and parking-meter models of pricing to sidewalks, but the license-plate and central-district-congestion-charge methods so popular these days as ways of squeezing ever more revenue out of drivers on so-called “free” roads. Imagine not just license plates on the back of every pair of shoes, but customizable vanity plates for an added annual fee! Now you can not only have pay through the nose to advertise NIKE or REEBOK on the sides of your shoes, but pay even more to have a customizable NIKE 4EVA or WHEE BOK shoe-license plates on each heel and toe!

    Or imagine that certain oft-crowded pedestrian zones, such as downtown parks and chic shopping districts, could require a special additional fee to enter on foot, and to prove you have paid it, you must wear a distinctive pair of spats on top of your shoes. Surveillance cameras would enforce this fee, automatically mailing a bill for a hefty fine to everyone spotted in the congestion-charge zone not wearing the distinctive bar-coded spats.

    Not only would this scheme raise much-needed revenue for goverment at all levels, but it would ease the clogging of our sidewalks by joggers, sight-seers, the homeless, and other unproductive members of society, leaving plenty of room for those hurrying to and from their place of business from whatever inconvenient spot they finally found a place to park their car

    • rafinlay says:

      Clearly, you do not understand the basic principle of social organization: Anything I want should be free; things other people want, but I don’t, should be taxed heavily.

      • I own only one pair of shoes and rarely leave the house, so a scheme to tax shoes and pedestrian ambling would not violate that principle of enlightened self-interest as far as I’m concerned.

  5. rafinlay says:

    Clearly, you fail to grasp the basic principle of social organization: Anything I want should be free, or at least heavily subsidized; things other people want, but I don’t, should be heavily taxed.

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