Are Toll Lanes Unequal? A Response to the Rawlsian Critics

Robert D. Atkinson January 9, 2013
January 9, 2013

Dan Sarewitz argued in a piece at The Breakthrough about new high occupancy/toll (HOT) lanes on the Washington, DC Beltway. He claims, “market rationality imposed on roadways that all people depend on for their livelihoods and social lives means that poor people will be increasingly required to travel more slowly than those with more money.” So what Sarewitz appears to be arguing against is our current tax system, which he presumably, and rightly, believes is not progressive enough. Fair enough. But let’s have that discussion rather than demonize innovative, environmentally and socially progressive innovations like toll lanes built through public-private partnerships. If we want to build the support for policies that are truly pro-growth, rather than one that simply redistribute limited growth, we need to reject failed Rawlsian thinking.