Free Parking Versus the Free Market

In this article, Eric de Place calls on conservative think-tanks to address an issue that they rarely have: public parking.  This issue is rarely fought by conservatives, but in reality, it embodies many of the things that make their collective skins crawl: distortion of the free market; government intervention through minimum parking requirements; and an economic burden, especially on those who are taxed for parking but don’t use it, and on those who are required to build parking when they could make more money by developing the property in another way.  He suggests that all curbside parking be metered or that this extra space be put to better use, such as HOV lanes or wider sidewalks.  He also suggests dynamic parking prices that shifts in proportion to the demand.  He cites the few articles he could find on the subject, which are paltry.  He insinuates that conservatives may not be wanting to address this issue because it is generally unpopular and because conservatives generally are partakers of the car-dependent lifestyle.

I’ll be straightforward; I wouldn’t call myself a free market capitalist, because that economic theory is based on the assumption that markets are flawless and that people always make rational decisions, neither of which is true.  That being said, I’m something of a Keynesian.  Keynesian economic theory, though it does allow for government oversight and the action of a “spender of last resort,” still beleives that the free market should be the dominant force in economies, with the government stepping in when things get out of hand (Keynesianism isn’t socialism.  Look it up.).  I believe that parking is a situation that the government does not need to and, indeed, shouldn’t control, and that it should be turned over to the market.  If people actually had to pay what parking was worth (as well as what gasoline was worth), I think that more people would choose to drive less, and we would have better cities.

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