By Ryan Lau | USA
When thinking of Thanksgiving, the first thing to come to many minds will, of course, be a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. Roasted turkey smothered in hot gravy, tangy cranberry sauce, lightly whipped mashed potatoes, mouth-watering pecan and pumpkin pies. It is also a perfect opportunity to reconnect and celebrate with both close and extended family, to watch football, to shop, or to simply relax. Sounds just about perfect, doesn’t it? Thanksgiving is the embodiment of American tradition. However, just like America itself, the holiday has a number of government-created drawbacks. Specifically, I will focus on detriments regarding food and travel, as well as the unsurprising solutions to them that a libertarian society would create.
Government involvement in the agricultural industry has had a significant impact on the price of produce for decades. In fact, President Franklin D. Roosevelt first instituted the Agricultural Adjustment Act in 1933, as a part of the New Deal era’s progressive policies. This act was intended to reduce agricultural surpluses, and the federal government sought this end by purchasing privately owned livestock for slaughter, as well as paying farmers subsidies to not plant on a portion of their land. Though many New Deal programs were well-intentioned, the AAA was not unlike most other social programs of the depression in the sense that it was an utter failure. The only lasting effect of the AAA, which is still in effect today, has been a drastic increase in the price of commonly purchased crops.
What does the AAA mean for your Thanksgiving Day? Well, first of all, the government’s money, so generously given to the farmers, did not simply materialize. Federal agents collect it from the people, which leaves less in your pockets to begin your Thanksgiving preparations. But wait, this bill actually harms the consumers a second time. After losing a greater portion of your wealth due to increased taxation, be sure to expect a hike in the price of corn, potatoes, cranberries, and breads. If a surplus of supply exists, demand will be lower than market equilibrium, which drags down consumer prices. Government intervention reverses the actions of the free market, which in this case doubly benefits the consumer.
How, then, might a repeal of the AAA, and a return to a more libertarian market-driven approach to the agricultural industry, benefit the consumer? Well, simply put, this would eliminate the artificial supply ceiling that the government creates. In doing so, the market would find an equilibrium in which supply meets demand for major crops. If there is too much corn to be sold in a given year, no successful farmer will, given the same outlook for demand, produce the same amounts of the crop the following year. He does not need the government’s bribes to determine the most profitable course of action, and accepting such bribes merely hurts the American people.
In addition to the inefficiency of the AAA, the U.S. and State Departments of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administrations vastly contribute to all of our Thanksgiving woes. Simply put, traffic has become a nightmare due to the incompetence of the federal and state departments in charge of maintaining and improving our roads.
As an example, I examined the state of Connecticut’s traffic report, more specifically that of the popular interstate highway I-84. At one particularly congested location, between Exits 23 and 22 Westbound, the Department of Transportation monitored the levels of traffic for multiple days and found that an average of 53,778 cars drive by this location in a single day. Considering there are only around 2 million cars registered in the state of Connecticut, (and it can be assumed for the sake of a simple comparison that the number of Connecticut cars driving out of state is roughly equivalent to the number of out of state cars driving in Connecticut) this means that 2.7% of all cars in the state drive by this location in any given day, making it one of the busiest areas in Connecticut.
These statistics, by themselves, mean absolutely nothing, as populated areas will naturally form due to socio-economic pressure to seek employment in various reasons, the larger cities of Hartford and Bridgeport on either side of Waterbury, and the fact that I-84 is the only highway running through this portion of the state. Given this data, one might expect an adequately planned road to accommodate the massive amounts of traffic. Yet, as one may expect, the government has fallen short once again, deciding that this bustling stretch of highway, used by 4000 cars per hour (more than a car per second) in peak traffic hours, should have only two lanes. Road safety guidelines recommend four seconds of space between cars. Thus, to operate in a way that would come close to allowing cars to pass without significant delays, the road would require four lanes.
Where has the government’s money been? If it was simply withheld and not forcibly taken from the people, it would perhaps be more acceptable. However, this has not been the case. Since 2007, Connecticut’s DOT has not fixed the appalling traffic scenario but instead has spent an astonishing $330 million on ten years of construction that has essentially only resurfaced some roads and installed Jersey barriers on the edges of the narrow strip of road.
This is the clear and direct result of a lack of concern for profit. The government has no incentive to be profitable, as it can always leech additional money from the people. If private companies, rather than the government, owned the stretch, their own self-interest would entail the interest of their constituents. The most profitable move for a privately owned road seeking to attract new users would be to satisfy the existing ones. Just as a restaurant must provide superb service to attract more business, a privately owned road would seek to satisfy its consumers.
Clearly, a solution that takes the liberty of the people into account not only is the most moral, but also the most practical, and the one that allows for everyone’s Thanksgiving weekend to be the best that it possibly can. Happy Thanksgiving to all viewers from myself and from the 71 Republic team!