Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Road Pricing & Citizen's Rights

There is a flurry of interest in the UK in road pricing centred on the 1m plus protests on Prime Minister Blair's 10 Downing St website. On the face of it road pricing is an equitable and green way to pay for roads, in that the user pays, congestion is reduced, the environmental impact is reduced and contributions made to other, usually greener transport facilities. This is what happens with the London congestion charge. You are renting the land you are using for a short period, and for popular times of the day or week you pay more.

Drawbacks include the more extensive use of less suitable roads as people avoid motorways and divert to lanes and narrow rat-runs, which would raise accident numbers. Also there would be a massive increase in the power of the state over the citizen in being able to know precisely where everyone is as soon as they turn their car key. Need the innocent fear this? Doesn’t the state know so much already? Would it matter that much?

Such issues are at the heart of the arguments in the book The Free Lunch – Fairness with Freedom. It studies new ways of paying for public services but with a strong emphasis on individual freedom and practical ways to achieve this. It rebalances the increasing growth of the state with benefits which reach right down to the individual.

One resolution of the road pricing ‘threat’, if it went ahead, is that some part of the money raised should be paid directly to each citizen as part of a new idea called the Citizen’s Royalty (also known as Citizen’s Dividend or Income). Thus the essential road user would have any extra cost from the road pricing charge reimbursed, and people who could reduce road use would gain financially and achieve environmental gains for all.

Buy the book: see

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