John Singleton with Bob HowardRip Van Australia (Stanmore: Cassell Australia, 1977), pp. 219-224, under the heading “Roads.”

If, for the brief two hundred years of our history, the Australian Government had had a monopoly on the manufacture of shoes, there would exist in the public mind today the belief that only government could produce shoes. If we were to suggest that private enterprise be allowed to manufacture and sell shoes, there would be alarmed cries about the chaos that would result. What about standards it would be asked? Who would provide shoes for the poor? How could private enterprise handle such a large and complex operation as providing shoes for 13 million Australians all with different sized feet? What about the chaos that would result from all the different manufacturers producing different sizes, styles, shapes, colours and brands of shoes? Who would look after odd sizes? Wouldn’t private enterprise only cater for the mass market and ignore the minority who want very small or very large shoes?

It would be said that it is obvious that only government could be trusted to provide such a necessity as shoes. And, if our current experience is any judge, the government would provide shoes, with the same lack of efficiency, lousy service and exorbitant cost as they show in all their other enterprises.

That situation doesn’t exist today in the case of shoes, but it does exist in other areas: public utilities, such as water, electricity, and sewerage; postal and telecommunications services, public transport and of course, roads. Just as private enterprise can handle the manufacture and marketing of shoes, so, too, could it handle all these public utilities. It could do them all at far lower cost, with far better service and a higher quality product. The inherent differences between a competitive free market and a government bureaucratic coercive monopoly ensure that that would be so.

However, while many people might be prepared to admit that private enterprise could make a fair fist of the post office, telephones, electricity and the like, they usually draw the line at roads. That, they say, is going too far. The mind fairly boggles at the thought of it — toll gates at every block, ten roads between Sydney and Melbourne, when only one or two would be sufficient, no roads at all to remote areas, different sets of rules to learn for every road, some greedy person who owns one small section of a road holding everyone to ransom and demanding exorbitant tolls. No, it’s all just too much.

However, the very nature of these sorts of obvious criticisms show that the person who suggests them has not made any attempt to think the concept of private roads through. Rather, it has been abandoned at the first sign of difficulty, and in truth, mainly because of one simple reason: it’s a strange, new idea! New, that is, to them. The idea isn’t new. It’s been around for years. In the late 1700s and through the 1800s private capital was used to build nearly all the major United States turnpikes. The Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike Corporation1 was chartered in 1792, and capitalised at $300,000. It arranged to sell 600 of its one thousand $300 shares in Philadelphia, and the remainder in Lancaster. In the Philadelphia terminus, 2276 people turned up to bid for the shares. Eighty-four companies had been incorporated in Pennsylvania by 1821, and had built 2907 kilometres (1807 miles) of turnpike. At the peak of the turnpike era Pennsylvania boasted 3860 kilometres (2400 miles) of turnpike in operation. New York had sixty-seven companies by 1807, 135 by 1811, and 278 by 1812, operating 6450 kilometres (4000 miles) of turnpike. Private capital continued to be mobilised through public turnpike authorities into the 1970s. The Ohio Turnpike Authority’s bonds were over-subscribed by $300 million the first day they were put on sale. Only a relatively few of these turnpikes built in recent times have failed to pay interest on their bonds. As Wooldridge points out, through the 1700s the United States tried many other ways to build roads — lotteries, forced road service from local land owners, grants-in-aid to localities, offers of large acreages to contractors, taxes — but all these measures failed.

The early turnpikes did not return much money directly on the investment, but the investors usually received more than their money’s worth in “neighbourhood effects” — the decreased cost of transportation of goods and the enhanced value of land around the road. The investors were usually the small businessmen and farmers who needed the roads, and almost no one bought large blocks of stock.

In England too the major road systems were built and initially run by private enterprise.

However, because the shareholders did not always receive a direct financial return in those years when they financed these roads, they were happy to turn the operation of roads over to the State — in the belief, perhaps, that then roads would somehow be “free”. At least they knew that if the roads were financed out of taxation revenue, the costs would be spread over more people. That many people who paid for them never used them apparently didn’t bother them too much.

There is no reason whatsoever (or no economic reason anyway — there are, no doubt, legal reasons) why a private or public company should not be formed in Australia to construct, for example, a multi-lane modern turnpike between Sydney and Melbourne. In view of the irresponsibly dangerous state of the existing highways, this would be a tremendous step forward — especially since there is no prospect of the governments involved being able to afford to do it. The money is there — it simply needs to be mobilised.

But more than just turnpikes can be built. Streets in shopping centres could be owned by co-operative companies made up by all the various business and shop-owners in that street. They would have a direct incentive to have the most attractive street possible, with transport, entertainment, and all conceivable facilities, because the more people who used the street, the more customers they would have for their businesses and shops. Residential developments could be designed around a system of money-earning through roads — which would be owned by either a private company or companies, or all the local residents — and a system of quiet, restricted entry, residential roads. The revenue earned by the through-toll-roads could be used to maintain all the roads, and, perhaps, provide other facilities in the development.

Transport companies could own and operate roads. And all sorts of private individuals and private and public companies could as well. The problems of rules and toll collections would not arise because of the simple fact that it would be directly against the financial interests of all road owners. As in any free enterprise business, profits are maximised by attracting as many customers as possible to use the product or service — by making it as attractive and as easy as possible for these people to do so. Prices are optimised, rules are optimised, quality and service are optimised. Toll collection would soon be electronic and computerised. The technology exists already to do this easily. Small roads would lease facilities off central toll monitoring and collection companies, where necessary. All roads would have a direct economic incentive to have high safety records and would thus set driver qualification standards, prohibitions on drink driving, drug-affected drivers, and other dangerous driving practices. Because they owned the roads, they would have a perfect right to set whatever laws they wanted.

The profit motive would also tend to produce the most efficient routes as traffic bottlenecks were progressively removed. Traffic lights on major roads would be replaced by over-and-unders. Facilities would be provided, and as far as possible, scenic beauty, cleanliness and good road services preserved. None of these would depend on politics, on taxing power or government in-fighting. They would all be a direct function of the market.

Users would pay for the roads in proportion to the amount they used them. The government could no longer rationalise its super taxes on cars, petrol, tyres and oil. Roads would exist in open competition with sea, air, and rail services. Local road maintenance and construction works could be taken out of the hands of the notoriously inefficient and extravagant government departments, and sub-contracted to private companies. Equipment would be much more efficiently utilised, and, we would even see an end to the practice of digging up busy streets during peak traffic periods!

Local residents could choose what street surface they wanted — bitumen, dirt, gravel — whether they wanted curbing and guttering, pavements, trees, and so on, rather than have to either submit to council decisions they may not want, or want something they can’t get. In short, they could have, if they wanted it, direct local control over their streets. In any event, the market system would be far more responsible to their needs and wishes than an inflexible government department.

Because the capital value of individual homes and businesses would be increased by good streets and facilities, this would be another direct incentive for all property owners to take an interest in their roads, to ensure their quality and general safety. This would in fact be a symbiotic relationship, because, in the case of private street companies, the capital value of the streets would depend also on quality of the neighbourhood, and the business they generated. Right of access to homes would be built into the purchase contract. Obviously, nobody would buy a home if he or she couldn’t get into or out of it.

Privately owned roads would also provide a force for decentralisation, as new areas were opened up by entrepreneurs. New towns could be built, as road owners tried to induce immigration and industrial development into their areas. Co-operation between rural interests, mining interests and road owners could ensure road development in rural and country areas. The mining companies in Western Australia have already built towns, railways, and roads as they have developed their mines. Private roads would also be very effective in helping to reduce crime, as all road-owners sought to make their roads and the areas they served as safe as possible, so as to attract more customers to their areas.

As with any other commodity, toll prices2 would respond to the supply and demand formula. This would provide a market force to further encourage decentralisation and decongestion of the roads. Tolls, for example, would be higher in peak hours. The traffic congestion on our Sydney Harbour Bridge could easily be solved by a free market pricing system. If it cost fifty cents or a dollar to cross the Bridge in peak hour, and only ten cents at off-peak periods, this would encourage some industries or businesses to move out of the city area, and would encourage people to use public transport, share cars, or travel off-peak. It would also encourage corporations to build another bridge(s) and/or under-harbour tunnels. The high price should be set by the market, to maximise returns. It should not be set by an arbitrary bureaucratic decision.

Similarly, parking would be more expensive in the city than in the suburbs, with the same results. If the demand warranted it, more roads, bridges and parking stations would be built. Public transport, again, if privately operated, would also be optimised by the free competitive market.

These are only a few of the possibilities of a private road system. We believe they offer the chance of a most effective solution to the problems of transportation and road supply that currently plague our governments. The[y] would also ensure a far more rationally planned and run city — a city planned to meet market needs, rather than bureaucratic whims.

The car was only invented at the turn of this century. It is ridiculous that a system of roads that is only a century old should be looked on as the ultimate answer, when we all know that more Australians are dying on these roads than in all wars combined. They can’t be perfect as they are. There has to be a better way. And only the incentive of the free market will find it.

  1. William C. Wooldridge, Uncle Sam, the Monopoly Man, Arlington House, New Rochelle, N.Y., 1970, pp. 129-130.
  2. For more information see Murray N. Rothbard, For a New Liberty, Macmillan, New York, N.Y., 1973, ch. 10.
(in order of appearance on
  1. Governments Consume Wealth — They Don't Create It
  2. Singo and Howard Propose Privatising Bondi Beach
  3. Singo and Howard Speak Out Against the Crackpot Realism of the CIS and IPA
  4. Singo and Howard on Compromise
  5. Singo and Howard on Monopolies
  6. Singo and Howard Support Sydney Harbour Bridge Restructure
  7. Singo and Howard on Striking at the Root, and the Failure of Howard, the CIS and the IPA
  8. Singo and Howard Explain Why Australia is Not a Capitalist Country
  9. Singo and Howard Call Democracy Tyrannical
  10. Singo and Howard on Drugs!
  11. Simpleton sells his poll philosophy
  12. Singo and Howard Decry Australia Day
  13. Singo and Howard Endorse the Workers Party
  14. Singo and Howard Oppose the Liberal Party
  15. Singo and Howard Admit that Liberals Advocate and Commit Crime
  16. Up the Workers! Bob Howard's 1979 Workers Party Reflection in Playboy
  17. John Whiting's Inaugural Workers Party Presidential Address
  18. John Singleton and Bob Howard 1975 Monday Conference TV Interview on the Workers Party
  19. Singo and Howard on Aborigines
  20. Singo and Howard on Conservatism
  21. Singo and Howard on the Labor Party
  22. Singo, Howard and Hancock Want to Secede
  23. John Singleton changes his name
  24. Lang Hancock's Foreword to Rip Van Australia
  25. New party will not tolerate bludgers: Radical party against welfare state
  26. Singo and Howard introduce Rip Van Australia
  27. Singo and Howard on Knee-Jerks
  28. Singo and Howard on Tax Hunts (Lobbying)
  29. Singo and Howard on Rights
  30. Singo and Howard on Crime
  31. Singo and Howard on Justice
  32. Singo and Howard on Unemployment
  33. John Singleton on 1972 cigarette legislation
  34. Singo and Howard: Gambling Should Neither Be Illegal Nor Taxed
  35. Holed up, hold-up and holdout
  36. The libertarian alternative vs the socialist status quo
  37. Workers Party Platform
  38. Singo and Howard Join Forces to Dismantle Welfare State
  39. Singo and Howard on Business
  40. Singo and Howard on Discrimination
  41. Singo and Howard on the Greens
  42. Singo and Howard on Xenophobia
  43. Singo and Howard on Murdoch, Packer and Monopolistic Media
  44. Singo and Howard Explain that Pure Capitalism Solves Pollution
  45. Singo and Howard Defend Miners Against Government
  46. Singo and Howard on Bureaucracy
  47. Singo and Howard on Corporate Capitalism
  48. The last words of Charles Russell
  49. Ted Noffs' Preface to Rip Van Australia
  50. Right-wing anarchists revamping libertarian ideology
  51. Giving a chukka to the Workers Party
  52. Govt "villain" in eyes of new party
  53. "A beautiful time to be starting a new party": Rand fans believe in every man for himself
  54. Introducing the new Workers' Party
  55. Paul Rackemann 1980 Progress Party Election Speech
  56. Lang Hancock 1978 George Negus Interview
  57. Voices of frustration
  58. Policies of Workers Party
  59. Party Promises to Abolish Tax
  60. AAA Tow Truck Co.
  61. Singo and Howard on Context
  62. Singo and Howard Blame Roosevelt for Pearl Harbour
  63. Singo and Howard on Apathy
  64. Workers Party is "not just a funny flash in the pan"
  65. Singo and Howard on Decency
  66. John Singleton in 1971 on the 2010 Federal Election
  67. Matthew, Mark, Luke & John Pty. Ltd. Advertising Agents
  68. Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
  69. The writing of the Workers Party platform and the differences between the 1975 Australian and American libertarian movements
  70. Who's Who in the Workers Party
  71. Bob Howard interviewed by Merilyn Giesekam on the Workers Party
  72. A Farewell to Armchair Critics
  73. Sukrit Sabhlok interviews Mark Tier
  74. David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
  75. David Russell Workers Party Policy Speech on Brisbane TV
  76. Bludgers need not apply
  77. New party formed "to slash controls"
  78. The Workers Party
  79. Malcolm Turnbull says "the Workers party is a force to be reckoned with"
  80. The great consumer protection trick
  81. The "Workers" speak out
  82. How the whores pretend to be nuns
  83. The Workers Party is a Political Party
  84. Shit State Subsidised Socialist Schooling Should Cease Says Singo
  85. My Journey to Anarchy:
    From political and economic agnostic to anarchocapitalist
  86. Workers Party Reunion Intro
  87. Singo and Howard on Freedom from Government and Other Criminals
  88. Singo and Howard on Young People
  89. Singo and Howard Expose how Government Healthcare Controls Legislate Doctors into Slavery
  90. Singo and Howard Engage with Homosexuality
  91. Singo and Howard Demand Repeal of Libel and Slander Laws
  92. Singo and Howard on Consumer Protection
  93. Singo and Howard on Consistency
  94. Workers Party is born as foe of government
  95. Political branch formed
  96. Government seen by new party as evil
  97. Singo and Howard on Non-Interference
  98. Singo and Howard on Women's Lib
  99. Singo and Howard on Licences
  100. Singo and Howard on Gun Control
  101. Singo and Howard on Human Nature
  102. Singo and Howard on Voting
  103. Singo and Howard on
    Inherited Wealth
  104. Singo and Howard on Education
  105. Singo and Howard on Qualifications
  106. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  107. Singo and Howard Hate Politicians
  108. Undeserved handouts make Australia the lucky country
  109. A happy story about Aborigines
  110. John Singleton on Political Advertising
  111. Richard Hall, Mike Stanton and Judith James on the Workers Party
  112. Singo Incites Civil Disobedience
  113. How John Singleton Would Make Tony Abbott Prime Minister
  114. The Discipline of Necessity
  115. John Singleton on the first election the Workers Party contested
  116. Libertarians: Radicals on the right
  117. The Bulletin on Maxwell Newton as Workers Party national spokesman on economics and politics
  118. Singo and Howard: Australia Should Pull Out of the Olympics
  119. Singo and Howard Like Foreign Investment
  120. Mark Tier corrects Nation Review on the Workers Party
  121. The impossible dream
  122. Why can't I get away with it?
  123. The bold and boring Lib/Lab shuffle
  124. Time for progress
  125. The loonie right implodes
  126. Max Newton: Maverick in Exile
  127. John Singleton on refusing to do business with criminals and economic illiterates
  128. Censorship should be banned
  129. "Listen, mate, a socialist is a bum"
  130. John Singleton on Advertising
  131. John Singleton on why he did the Hawke re-election campaign
  132. Sinclair Hill calls for dropping a neutron bomb on Canberra
  133. Bob Howard in Reason 1974-77
  134. John Singleton defends ockerism
  135. Singo and Howard talk Civil Disobedience
  136. The Census Con
  137. Singo and Howard Oppose Australian Participation in the Vietnam War
  138. Did John Singleton oppose the mining industry and privatising healthcare in 1990?
  139. Bob Carr in 1981 on John Singleton's political bent
  140. John Singleton-Ita Buttrose interview (1977)
  141. John Singleton on elections: "a Massive One-Day Sale!"
  142. John Hyde's Progress Party praise
  143. King Leonard of Hutt River Declares Defensive Just War Against Australia the Aggressor
  144. Singo says Lang Hancock violated Australia's 11th commandment: Thou Shalt Not Succeed
  145. Singleton: the White Knight of Ockerdom
  146. John Singleton bites into Sinclair Hill's beef
  147. Save Parramatta Road
  148. 1979 news item on new TV show John Singleton With a Lot of Help From His Friends
  149. Smoking, Health and Freedom
  150. Singo and Howard on Unions
  151. Singo and Howard Smash the State
  152. Singo and Howard on the big issue of Daylight Saving
  153. Come back Bob - It was all in fun!
  154. A few "chukkas" in the Senate for polo ace?
  155. Country Rejuvenation - Towards a Better Future
  156. Singo and Howard on Profits, Super Profits and Natural Disasters
  157. John Singleton's 1977 pitch that he be on a committee of one to run the Sydney 1988 Olympics for profit
  158. Thoughts on Land Ownership
  159. 1975 Max Newton-Ash Long interview on the Workers Party
  160. The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
  161. The great Labor Party platform: first or last, everybody wins a prize
  162. The politics of marketing - laugh now, pay later
  163. Singo and Howard call Australia fascist and worse
  164. The mouse will roar
  165. Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
  166. Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
  167. Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
  168. Hancock's playing very hard to get
  169. Harry M. Miller and The Australian disgrace themselves
  170. Ocker ad genius takes punt on art
  171. John Singleton 1976 ocker Monday Conference Max Harris debate
  172. John Singleton mocks university students on civil liberties and freedom of choice in 1971
  173. Murray Rothbard championed on Australian television in 1974 (pre-Workers Party!) by Maureen Nathan
  174. John Singleton profile in 1977 Australian MEN Vogue
  175. I think that I shall never see a telegraph pole as lovely as a tree
  176. Ralph Nader vs John Singleton on Consumer Protection
  177. John Singleton's first two "Think" columns in Newspaper News, 1969
  178. Singo and Howard on Ballet
  179. Product innovation comes first
  180. Protect who from a 'mindless' wife?
  181. A party is born
  182. Tiny Workers' Party gives us a hint
  183. John Singleton on the ad industry, consumerism and innovation
  184. Workers Party Economic Policy Statement, December 1975
  185. Lang Hancock on the Workers Party, secession and States Rights
  186. John Singleton and Howard on Government Largesse
  187. Counterculture must exclude government handouts
  188. John Singleton's 1974 Federal Liberal Election Campaign Ads
  189. John Singleton believes in the Workers Party
  190. Write-up of John Singleton's 1978 speech to the Australian Liberal Students Association
  191. Singo in 1987: "Joh doesn't go far enough ... I want absolute deregulation of the economy"
  192. Maxwell Newton chapter of Clyde Packer's No Return Ticket (1984)
  193. Singo and Howard on Totalitarian Socialism and Voluntary Socialism
  194. Rip Van Australia on Ripoff Vandals Taxing Australia
  195. Singo and Howard beg for tolerance
  196. John Singleton's 1985 advertising comeback
  197. Singo and Howard Demand End to Public Transport
  198. John Singleton and Howard on Fred Nile, Festival of Light, FamilyVoice Australia and the Christian Lobby
  199. Capitalism: Survival of the Fittest
  200. Return Australia Post to Sender
  201. Singo and Howard on Public Utilities
  202. John Singleton and Howard say monarchy should be funded by monarchists alone
  203. John Singleton on cigarette advertising
  204. Singo in 1972 on newspapers' demise
  205. John Singleton farewells Bryce Courtenay
  206. John Singleton on Australian political advertising in 1972
  207. Gortlam rides again
  208. Announcement that Lang Hancock will be guest of honour at the Workers Party launch
  209. John Singleton on trading stamps, idiot housewives and government
  210. 1975 John Singleton-Sir Robert Askin Quadrant Interview
  211. Singo asks two prickly questions
  213. Why John Singleton can't keep a straight face
  214. Why John Singleton Defends Smokers Rights
  215. Tony Dear on Paul Krutulis, the Workers Party and murder
  216. An Ode to Busybodies
  217. Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
  218. How many tits in a tangle?
  219. Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air
  220. John Singleton wants the Post Office sold and anti-discrimination legislation scrapped
  221. A speech from the Titanic
  222. A crime must have a victim
  223. John Singleton vs Australia Post
  224. Minimum wages the killer
  225. Has Fraser got his priorities all wrong?
  226. John Singleton says "the royal family should be flogged off to the U.S."
  227. John Singleton vs Don Chipp and the Australian Democrats
  228. John Singleton vs Don Lane
  229. John Singleton. Horseracing. Why?
  230. John Singleton's 1986 reflection on the Workers Party
  231. Bob Howard in 1978 on libertarianism in Australia
  232. John Singleton on the stupidity of anti-discrimination laws
  233. Thou shalt know the facts ... before thou shoot off thou mouth
  234. Charity: An Aesop Fable
  235. Bob Howard announces the Workers Party in freeEnterprise
  236. New improved moon
  237. Announcing people ... YES, people!
  238. Creativity in advertising must be pointed dead on target
  239. John Singleton on barriers to, and opportunities for, effective communication
  240. Wayne Garland on John Singleton on Advertising
  241. John Singleton schools ad course
  242. John Singleton: advertising awards
  243. Mr Singleton Goes to Canberra for Australian Playboy
  244. John Singleton on his TV career for Australian Playboy
  245. John Singleton sacked for telling the truth about Medicare
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