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Author Topic: Railroads and Liberty  (Read 1765 times)

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Pilot_MKN

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Railroads and Liberty
« on: November 08, 2011, 05:21:35 PM »

I'm glad to hear Mark has been mentioning railroads on the show more. I emailed him recently about this topic as I think it's overlooked by many liberty-loving people as a great example of our ideas at work. Certain figures in the movement (like Stefan Molyneux) have made statements in the past about trains being outdated or "nobody uses them". That couldn't be further from the truth. Here's a few facts about railroads to bring people up to speed and maybe spur some thought.

-Railroads are one of the greatest examples of PRIVATE ROADS at work today. They are maintained with private funds, using private work crews and equipment, plus there's plenty of contractors out there that will do the work for smaller shortlines that can't afford to employ full time crews. Rails are arguably harder to keep maintained than asphalt and it works out. Rights of way have to be negotiated and purchased from landowners to build new track. The different railroads also negotiate track sharing agreements to use each others' networks.

-Railroads are the cheapest and most efficient way to move cargo long distances. Beyond 100-200 miles, its not cost effective to move items by truck. For heavier items like coal, iron, steel and airplane fuselages or electrical transformers, its not effective at all to move these things by truck. Whenever you see a train think of each car as a couple of semi trucks removed from the highways.

-Most consumer items are moved by trains at some point in the chain. Cargo ships offload containers onto trains which transport it to a terminal close to its destination where its put on a truck for final delivery. Its a very efficient system.

I don't know as much how passenger travel by train would look in our ideal world. Amtrak and FRA regulations have really distorted the costs for that idea. FRA regulations for passenger trains in America eliminate most of the low cost trains popular in Europe from being implemented here. I believe it is also illegal to compete with Amtrak. There is one segment of Amtrak that turns a profit and thats the high speed corridor linking Boston-New York-Washington.
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Pilot_MKN

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Re: Railroads and Liberty
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2011, 05:22:18 PM »

I also forgot to mention:

Most railroads in the US have private police agencies -- another example useful for debating statists.
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BonerJoe

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Re: Railroads and Liberty
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2011, 05:45:20 PM »

"Rights of way have to be negotiated and purchased from landowners to build new track. "

And if they don't want to sell? LOL. Riiiight.
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Pilot_MKN

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Re: Railroads and Liberty
« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2011, 05:48:10 PM »

Its not perfect! Here, I'll add an asterisk:

*Sometimes they solicit the government for money and/or to steal property from people
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Cognitive Dissident

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Re: Railroads and Liberty
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2011, 12:19:08 PM »

I really don't want to crap all over your cake, but I should at least mention that the railroads are, for the vast majority, government-established monopolies.  The ones that weren't were driven out of business for not playing the fed games.  Don't have any references, but I've heard the spiel a couple times.  Basically, most of the railroad system was created by government fiat.  Maybe someone else has more details.

That said, the government has intermingled with everything, so you can hardly blame an honest railroad business today for what happened 150 years ago.  I did want to point that tidbit out, though.
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Sam Gunn (since nobody got Admiral Naismith)

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Re: Railroads and Liberty
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2011, 01:04:02 PM »

Also, see: Amtrak.
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Pilot_MKN

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Re: Railroads and Liberty
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2011, 01:53:28 PM »

I'm fully aware of Amtrak. I'm not glossing over that.

Not all of them were so ingrained with the state. James J Hill built the northern transcontinental railroad route (Great Northern) with his own money and personally surveyed the route himself. If you look up the transcontinental railroads you heard about in government school, they went bankrupt and the tracks were built so shoddy (they got paid by the mile) that accidents and derailments were quite common. There's a railroad near my house that was originally built by a relative of William Faulkner.

Look, I'm not under any delusions that this is a perfect example, but for your average American who's not going to think much further about the issue this is a great, quick and easy example of how a private road works today.
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Cognitive Dissident

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Re: Railroads and Liberty
« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2011, 03:05:47 PM »

I'm fully aware of Amtrak. I'm not glossing over that.

Not all of them were so ingrained with the state. James J Hill built the northern transcontinental railroad route (Great Northern) with his own money and personally surveyed the route himself. If you look up the transcontinental railroads you heard about in government school, they went bankrupt and the tracks were built so shoddy (they got paid by the mile) that accidents and derailments were quite common. There's a railroad near my house that was originally built by a relative of William Faulkner.

Look, I'm not under any delusions that this is a perfect example, but for your average American who's not going to think much further about the issue this is a great, quick and easy example of how a private road works today.

I thought Hill was one the government drove out of business...and like I said, I didn't really want it to come across as trollish.  It's just that governments have been famously involved and so I'm not sure it's a good topic from that standpoint.  If the current railroad operators have done a good job of marketizing the railroads, and fixing the problems the state introduced by running the process, that's worth expanding on, though.
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