In an Anarcho-capitalist society, where there is no government, who would build the roads?

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    Ok now I'm confused. Why did you edit the tag? Is it correct that the answer is suppose to address anarchism and not anarcho-capitalism?
    – Razie Mah
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 16:35
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    @Chloe - Check my edit and see if it matches what you want to ask.
    – Bobson
    Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 21:05
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    I take offense at the Libertarianism tag(or would if it was an actual word) being applied... This is about anarchism which is not a Libertarian philosophy regardless how much both the left and the right want to paint it as such. Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 22:41
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    I think anarchism is the right tag for this. From the wikipedia: "Anarcho-capitalism (also referred to as free-market anarchism, market anarchism, private-property anarchism)" Unless we do create a new tag for this.
    – Bobson
    Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 23:18
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    @Chad Anarcho-capitalists are most definitely libertarians. Anarcho-capitalism was founded by Murray Rothbard, one of the pivotal figures in the development of the modern libertarian movement and the Libertarian Party. It's true that left-wing anarchism has very little in common with Anglo-American libertarianism, but anarcho-capitalism is a subset of libertarianism. Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 0:14

2 Answers 2


The roads might be built and maintained by different persons: private capital investment, community ownership (an especially good option for a transition between our mixed economy and a free market economy), public-private arrangement, monopolies, or possibly, no one.

The roads could be paid for without a centralized tax system by using a toll road system. Toll roads were popular in the 1800's and often financed by individuals without any impetus from the government, thus some roads would surely be built or maintained without any intervention. Many corporations now work in the field of toll collection processing for governments under the Build Operate Transfer system that also removes the need for a government to operate the road. Ideally, the roads would be built by many private investors to the extent possible, but some could be owned by the public and contracts given for work to maintain them, but corruption in contracts would be closely monitored.

A rare possibility is that all the roads would be purchased by private investors immediately. Drawing a parallel to the railroads of the 1800's, it is possible that since the infrastructure already exists, (which lowers "entry"/initial investment costs making it a better investment) businessmen might attempt to monopolize the road system. This would remove concerns about the upkeep of an interstate highway system for trade and national defense, but may raise other concerns that may be difficult for such a society to address, such as further horizontal integration. If this happened, one person or company would own all the roads and probably related industries, such as trucking companies.

The caveat to this is since there is no government, there will be no law nor permanent policy passed regarding building and maintaining the roads, specifically the interstate highway system. So at some point if relationships become strained between communities or there are other priorities, there is the risk that some or all of the interstate highway system would stop being built and no one will be building the roads the nation needs.

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    An ok answer, but references would improve it. You might mention that before the Federal Highway system, the roads were built by private individuals/organizations.
    – user1873
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 7:24
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    How is a delegation of anarchists not a government?
    – Publius
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 8:18
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    Your answer would be better if you took all the stuff that wasn't about "who will build the roads" Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 15:10
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    I think this is a pretty good answer... Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 22:44
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    @Avi - because a delegation of anarchists is voluntary
    – user4012
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 23:54

I think the marked answer is a correct and good one. Direct to the question, but I also feel the question itself has a built in assumption. That is that roads are the majority and necessary choice for transportation. The question, "who will build transportation system" is more applicable.

Roads are actually a burden not only on taxpayers but on anyone that has to buy and maintain a car. Its a big hurdle people have to get over to 'travel freely'.

Alternate transportation system would most likely arise to meet the needs of those who do not want to pay the high cost of car ownership or simple do not want to own a car.

Most people do not ponder why it is so difficult to get train system or alternate transportation system to work easy. And why must bus & streetcar systems be so heavily subsidized? It is because government has created a transportation monopoly. This monopoly basically dictates that roads are the only way to travel freely. It kills off other options. It definitely kills off free market options as no one can compete with 'free' money from taxes.

So the answer really is that people will put money into their desired mode of transportation and those will develop based on resources given to them. Thats what free markets are great at doing. Voluntary diplomacy in resource control.

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    So you suggest, in anarcho-capitalistic society there would be probably almost no roads, and most transport would be off-road, like in pre-medieval Europe? It's interesting, and it's actually quite likely. Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 7:11
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    @DanubianSailor It's neither true that roads are worthless, nor would roads be entirely abandoned in an anarcho-capitalist society. Instead, what Arthur is saying is that with the current distortion of a market found in our current society (due to the 'free money from taxes'), it is very hard to predict what the most efficient transportation system would end up being. If you are interested in this subject more, Walter Block wrote a book titled "The Privatization of Roads and Highways", wherein he goes into great detail about what a transportation system would look like, post government.
    – Rescis
    Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 21:58
  • Historically, rail systems have been great benefactors of governmental eminent domain (that, and outright government theft of Native American lands). If you want to run a rail line, it can be incredibly expensive to impossible, depending on whether the key landowners want every cent they can get for their land or just won't sell.
    – prosfilaes
    Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 9:48

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