The Privacy Implications of Replacing Gas Taxes with Mileage Taxes

|

The state of Oregon, worried about the crimp that improved gas mileage is putting into its attempt to fund roads through gasoline taxes, wants to tax miles driven rather than gas purchased–and to use GPS technology in cars to track miles driven for those taxing purposes. (Because they want a sophisticated pricing scheme that diffentiates between miles driven in-state and out-of-state, and during rush hour and outside rush hour, mere odometer readings won't do.)

According to the New York Times account, this has some privacy advocates itchy:

A pilot program based on the experiment rolls out at the end of March and will last at least a year. Within the next six weeks or so, 280 paid volunteers will have their cars equipped with a global positioning system that will allow the vehicles to be tracked by computers installed at two Portland service stations, where the drivers will be required to fill up.

The Oregon program is being watched closely across the country….

Critics say the G.P.S. records collected by the service stations could be subpoenaed for any number of reasons: criminal cases involving terror suspects or civil cases like divorces, where, for example, a suspicious husband or wife may seek gas pump receipts to prove the whereabouts of a spouse.

"I think what we've learned since Sept. 11 is that federal law enforcement seems to have an insatiable appetite for every bit of information that might be available," said David L. Sobel, general counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a civil liberties group in Washington. "The existence of such a database, which would, for the first time in history, allow for the creation of detailed daily itineraries of every driver, raises obvious privacy concerns."

With the pilot program, the data "will be routinely erased, except for the most recent gas pump receipt, said James M. Whitty, manager of the Office of Innovative Partnerships and Alternative Funding at the State Department of Transportation."

In reality, it could go either way–as Sobel points out, such routine erasing would make it difficult to ever dispute charges from the system. In a world in which technologies (many obviously very useful, as would be a way to more accurately connect road payments with road use, as this Oregon plan promises) are more and more eating away at our traditional obscurity in the eyes of the world, perhaps it will eventually become a social norm that our cars are equipped–by law, one imagines, though the Times story doesn't say how Oregon plans to make this a universal system–with these GPS trackers that government will have constant access to. It might all eventually seem no more alarming than, say, the very fact that they have the authority to tax us at all, or that strangers can make devices ring in our house without our knowledge or consent.

For more on the gradual disappearance of traditional notions of privacy in the face of the efficiency of databases and data collection technologies, see Declan McCullagh's epoch-making Reason cover story from June 2004, wrapped in the first magazine cover to feature subscriber's own homes photographed on the cover, on the sometimes unseen benefits of loss of privacy.

NEXT: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. That’s dumb – surely they have some kind of annual inspection process. They could just check the odometers every year and issue a bill.

    That’d be a whole heck of a lot cheaper.

    If they need to go tech, they could distribute RFID chips on the roads, one per mile, and install a device in the cars which would count the RFID chips as it passed over them. That would do just as well, without getting into tracking movements.

    I’m inclined to think this sort of thing can be traced to a supplier of GPS equipment, some legislators, and a passel of corruption.

  2. I give a program like that about a week before someone figures out a way to beat it. How difficult would it be to block the signal for say half the time you’re on the road. Just flip on a signal jammer when you leave the driveway and your commute to work is tax free.

    Better still, someone will set up an operation to reprogram your car’s code so someone else – perhaps in the legislature – gets the bill.

  3. Jon H—As the full story explains, tho my blog summary did not, the plan allows for variable taxing based on time driving in state, out of state, and during rush hours, seeking a more sophisticated way to price road use so as to create some social-control incentives—thus the mere odomotor inspection would not meet all those needs.

  4. Jon H–Sorry, as my blog entry USED to not explain–I amended it so it does.

  5. Mine would probably fall off in my garage… sometimes.

  6. Just flip on a signal jammer when you leave the driveway and your commute to work is tax free.

    Until traffic cops start using signal detectors to make sure that every car on the road is transmitting. Woe to the driver who is caught jamming, believe you me.

  7. Couldn’t these GPS units be used to determine the speed of vehicles? I have heard that some car rental companies have used GPS to try to enforce policies requiring additional fees to be paid if speed laws are violated. Once everyone has a GPS-equipped car, are automated speeding tickets next?

  8. >Once everyone has a GPS-equipped car, are
    >automated speeding tickets next?

    Probably not. Since speeding tickets are usually more about revenue generation than actually enforcing the speed limit, the state is unlikely to WANT perfect enforcement.

    Since pretty much everyone speeds, perfect enforcement would create a huge push to increase speed limits, likely eliminating them as a revenue stream.

  9. Math Guy,

    Well, the Illinois Tollway calculates average speed of a vehicle with I-Pass by comparing the times it passed through various toll plazas. And if you don’t have I-Pass, you pay double tolls. Or as the tollway folks would have it, you get a 50% discount off the [recently doubled] tolls for having I-Pass.

  10. The way to do this is to have all the information stored on the driver’s device. Details should be kept in case the driver needs to dispute something, but the details should be erasable if the driver chooses.

    To prevent fraud, when paying for gas a signal for the miles driven on the car’s odometer could be given to confirm the GPS information. If the GPS mileage doesn’t match the odometer, the driver is taxed at the highest rate for the unrecorded miles.

  11. Wouldn’t it just be easier to, say, raise the tax on gas? Or even better, raise the tax and get rid of the useless ban on pumping one’s own gas, so Oregon’s gas price doesn’t rise THAT much.

  12. data “will be routinely erased, except for the most recent gas pump receipt

    Data is NEVER, EVER, NO WAY, NO HOW, EVER erased. Understand. Commit this to memory. Remove any doubt. Unbelievable that anyone still tries to claim otherwise. The divorce lawyer will supoena the record to prove infidelity. The police will bust alibis. Search warrants will be issued based on suspicions generated from travel patterns. We can talk about good/bad but forget about any claims of confidentail or private.

  13. Of course, the hilarious part is that one reason for the fuel tax is to encourage people to drive more fuel-efficient cars…but now that people are actually doing that, the state complains that its revenues are down. Sort of like how some states are freaking out because fewer people are smoking, and revenue from cigarette taxes (whose ostensible purpose was to discourage smoking) is down.

    Not to mention the fact that efficent vehicles generally weigh less than guzzlers, and thus cause far less damage to the roads; why should my Echo be taxed the same per mile as my neighbor’s H2?

  14. If the problem is reduced ability to fund road maintenance out of gas taxes when cars use less gas, surely other options would include:

    1. Stop diverting gas tax revenue into the general fund and instead use a higher proportion of it for roading projects; if that isn’t sufficient, then:

    2. Increase the gas tax

    Isn’t wear and tear on roads proportionate to the gas tax collected per vehicle? I mean, all else equal, a heavier vehicle consumes more gas per mile (pays more tax) while putting more wear and tear on the road. What am I missing here? I suppose if we were in a world where everyone were switching to electric cars, that would be a different thing.

  15. I’d also have to agree with Robert Cote up there, and that’s without even trying to unpack what exactly the nasty adverb “routinely” is supposed to mean. Does it mean “regularly”, as in every day, or does it mean “most of the time”, as in “if we don’t think you’re up to no good”?

  16. This is a case where the suppposed advantages — rush-hour pricing, different taxes for in- and out-of-state driving — are ridiculous compared with the privacy implications.

    Techies who hate traffic love rush-hour pricing, as if paying an extra two dollars will deter someone from getting on the Pasadena Freeway at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday, but isn’t the existence of the massive traffic jam far greater incentive in itself to find a different route?

    As for whether a car drives in Oregon or Washington, who the heck cares? If you drive half of your miles in one state and half in another, on average you’ll end up buying half your gas (and paying half your taxes) in each state.

    I’m glad, really, that traffic engineers are brainstorming about the uses of technology. But this one makes no sense for standard consumer use. (Rental cars and big rigs are another issue, but that has little to do with state revenues.)

    As Eric said above, if revenue’s a problem, raise the stinking gas tax.

  17. I thought they had a remarkable way to charge variable mileage charges on highways during normal and rush hours.

    Toll plazas.

  18. QUOTE:
    If the problem is reduced ability to fund road maintenance out of gas taxes when cars use less gas, surely other options would include:

    1. Stop diverting gas tax revenue into the general fund and instead use a higher proportion of it for roading projects; if that isn’t sufficient, then:

    2. Increase the gas tax

    Isn’t wear and tear on roads proportionate to the gas tax collected per vehicle? I mean, all else equal, a heavier vehicle consumes more gas per mile (pays more tax) while putting more wear and tear on the road. What am I missing here? I suppose if we were in a world where everyone were switching to electric cars, that would be a different thing.
    /QUOTE

    Exactly. There is very good correlation between user fees like traditional gas taxes and tolls and the costs of the services government provides. So obviously this isn’t an issue of revenue. It’s an fascist attempt to track people. Don’t tread on me!

  19. Robert Cote.
    You haven’t even mentioned the Patriot Act and similar. Congestion pricing is the security apparatus wet dream

  20. “Wouldn’t it just be easier to, say, raise the tax on gas? Or even better, raise the tax and get rid of the useless ban on pumping one’s own gas, so Oregon’s gas price doesn’t rise THAT much.”

    This brings to mind one of the first political TV ads I can remember from my youth. There was a measure on the Oregon ballot to allow people to pump their own gas (yes, it’s illegal to pump your own gas in Oregon and now I can’t remember the last time I saw a full serve pump here in Cali). Well the ad featured an old lady pulling up to a station, trying to pump her own gas and ending up like that famous buddhist monk. Needless the say, the measure failed, who could possibly conceive of pumping their own gas if it kills old ladies and buddhis monks?

  21. Folks, in thirty years, cars will drive themselves. Yes, every darned bit of this will be recorded, too. In thirty five years, the safety record of AI-driven cars will be proven so superior to human drivers that meat-computer driving will be banned on public roads. I am not joking.

    I really don’t care what data is recorded on these systems, so long as a warrant is needed to access it. Ultimately, paying this way is more efficient than paying via gas taxes, as we can tweak prices based on the times people drive, and whether they are using the gasoline for other purposes than driving.

  22. Yeah replace the gas tax with a mileage tax. What a load of bullshit all their trying to do is add a mileage tax in addition to a gas tax. I might as well drive a hummer if im not gonna get a break for conserving. Or how about a tax on how heavy your truck is so you pay for how much wear and tear your doing.

  23. “Wouldn’t it just be easier to, say, raise the tax on gas?”

    One problem is that politicans/beaurocrats are addicted to gasoline taxes…much like utility taxes. High efficiency cars (or electrics) threaten to at least erode that comfy tax base. So they want to Do Something? to protect against that possibility. Probably the best something is to go all/mostly private highways (with regulated standards).

  24. The idea of taxing mileage is creepy back-handed way of changing what is essentially a semi-progressive sin-tax (the gas tax) with a tax on everyone who drives distances. This is ideal to the Right because it’s regressive and hits working class people who often have to drive long distances to work because they can’t afford homes in the outlying areas close to commercial centers.

    And I love it when you Libers complain when a sin-tax kills itself. How both hypocritical AND uninformed! Why on Earth would you geniuses care if the tax base dries up and the gov’t can’t get at it anymore? Isn’t that ideal anyway? Jeez…

    The point is that gas usage is sort of a “sin.” We should tax it high specifically to GET people to drive less and use public transport and drive more efficient cars. THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT. Yes, of course the taxes are ostensibly used to fund the roads and highways, but the tax hits people who drive guzzlers the most. Unless, of course, you crazy libers want to spend 20% of our taxes on “nation building” oil rich countries forever (or until the oil runs out).

    JMJ

  25. Me, I think taxation by distance driven, combined with vehicle weight and use, time of day and road used is a fine idea. The privacy issues are mighty icky, and there are all sorts of technical hurdles once you start looking at closing off possible loopholes, but it seems pretty close to the libertarian dream from the pay-for-what-you-use standpoint.

    Along with vehicle weight (which affects how much wear a vehicle inflicts on the road), there would also ideally be a multiplier for fuel efficiency and emissions level since those also affect mitigation costs.

    If rush-hour surcharges and high prices for long commutes in inefficient vehicles cause pain to someone commuting on a freeway, maybe it will be an incentive to work closer to home or live closer to work or encourage the commuter upset at paying the real cost of her or his commute to support denser non-automobile-centered urban development that would make mass transit economically feasible and more practical than driving.

  26. Chad, I’m with you. Although I’ve been awaiting our robot highway overlords for some time, the recent performance of the robot competitors in DARPA’s 2005 Grand Challenge gives me reason to think that we may see robot-controlled vehicles on our roads relatively soon.

    In the previous competition, not a single robot-controlled vehicle completed the race. In fact, only one got as far as seven miles, which wasn’t even remotely close to finishing. Last year, things improved so much that five cars made it to the finish line. Not a small achievement, considering that the cross-country track was around 140 miles long and involved obstacles and hairpin turns on hills.

    For anyone interested, Nova is running a show (“The Great Robot Race“) on last year’s Grand Challenge.

    As an aside, it occurs to me that once we make the switch to purely robot-controlled cars, then a new breed of hackers will learn to alter the robots to do unlawful things. When caught, they will, of course, blame the robot.

  27. I’d love to live closer to work, s.m. You want to foot me the $800 – $1,200 rent difference it would cost me?

  28. And I love it when you Libers complain when a sin-tax kills itself.

    Who, pray tell, are these “Libers” who complain when a sin-tax kills itself. Most of what I hear is laughter when the schemes of assholes like you to control the world backfire.

  29. Toll plazas.

    Mo,

    Toll plazas create delays and inconvenience. Furthermore they only approximate mileage billing. Open road tolling is an improvement but still only works on Limited Access highways.

    One of the big problems with road funding today is with local collector and arterial routes many of which are funded with sales and property taxes and thus become subsidized facilities with no mechanism to tie payment to actual use.

  30. I had a pretty interesting email exchange with Alex Tabarrok about this the other day. He seems to think the privacy issue isn’t that scary because you can already be tracked via cellphone, and the big carriers are so in bed with the Feds it’s essentially like the government is keeping the records anyway.

    I think it’s better as at least the government has to go through some nominal motions to get cellphone records and track using them.

    I also talked to a buddy of mine who does signal location for a living, and one could in theory block the GPS signal by building a…Faraday cage around either the device or turning the whole car into one. I worry that there would have to be enforcement of signals by police, but if the whole car is a Faraday cage that only works when the car is on they’ll never be able to find the way you’re jamming the signal.

  31. Me, I think taxation by distance driven, combined with vehicle weight and use, time of day and road used is a fine idea.

    That’s what the gas tax is. The amount of fuel you use is directly proportional to the distance you drive your vehicle, its weight, and how much time you spend going suboptimal speeds (

  32. Isaac,

    Genius, I want to tax gas at the pump while you loonies want to have sattelites and weigh stations and God knows what else to tax driving itself – and you say I want to control the world?

    What a maroon.

    JMJ

  33. As annoying and inconvenient as toll plazas are, I’d rather deal with them than have a government-mandated tracking device in my car.

  34. Well the ad featured an old lady pulling up to a station, trying to pump her own gas and ending up like that famous buddhist monk.

    Did those supporting the change in the law counter with an ad noting the fact that there are no known cases of old ladies immolating themselves at a self-serve gas station in the 48 states where such are legal?

  35. Tolls are utterly counter-productive nonsense. Interstates should be funded with ferderal dollars, intrastates with state dollars, local roads with local dollars. Tolls assume that a road is only used by the person who drives it, but in fact, those roads are conduits for goods and services and the people who provide them for everyone and so everyone should pay. Period. Anything else is stupid.

    JMJ

  36. Tolls assume that a road is only used by the person who drives it, but in fact, those roads are conduits for goods and services and the people who provide them for everyone and so everyone should pay.

    That’s why 18-wheelers pay much higher tolls than passenger cars, and the tolls are included in transportation costs, which the company bears in mind when deciding how much to charge for their goods.

  37. Did those supporting the change in the law counter with an ad noting the fact that there are no known cases of old ladies immolating themselves at a self-serve gas station in the 48 states where such are legal?

    Facts are stupid things, Crimethink.

  38. And I love it when you Libers complain when a sin-tax kills itself. How both hypocritical AND uninformed! Why on Earth would you geniuses care if the tax base dries up and the gov’t can’t get at it anymore? Isn’t that ideal anyway? Jeez…

    Mr. Jersey “Women-Killer”* McJones:

    The point is that, after people stop committing the tax-discouraged “sin,” the government doesn’t brush off its hands, say, “Mission accomplished!” and that’s that. The point is, the government then says, “Oh my god, people actually stopped doing the behavior that our tax discouraged! Now we need to replace the additional revenue we’ve become addicted to!” and then searches desperately for something new to tax.

    The discouragement of a “sin” is only the ostensible excuse. It’s really about the State’s own sin of addiction to more and more revenue and control. That’s where the hypocrisy lies. And that’s the point you missed.

    * You’ll have to scroll down toward the bottom.

  39. “crimethink”,

    The gas tax sort of works now in a distorted way, but it doesn’t adequately address local roads. Oregon is presumably thinking ahead to a time in the near future when there will be enough high-efficiency and alternative-fuel vehicles (hybrids, electrics, fuel-cell, whatever) on the road that a gasoline tax will be even less proportional to an individual’s road use.

    …and Phil:

    It’s about time this country’s cities stopped subsidizing suburbia. If the real cost of commuting ends up hurting more than you expect, that’s the invisible hand for you. In the meantime, if you move close enough to where you work and put your support behind a return to pre-automobile development patterns, you’ll make up half that $800-$1200 difference in rents by giving up the car you no longer need, nu? 😉

  40. Jennifer,

    Yes, it’s true the costs associate with commercial transportation and distribution is funneled out to consumers through the tolls, but what of all us drivers who produce goods and services? We bare the costs alone – and that’s not fair.

    Steveo,

    “The point is that, after people stop committing the tax-discouraged “sin,” the government doesn’t brush off its hands, say, “Mission accomplished!” and that’s that.”

    Ah, but theoretically they can. And that is the point. It’s up to we citizens to put their feet to the fire on that. 😉

    JMJ

  41. but what of all us drivers who produce goods and services? We bare the costs alone – and that’s not fair.

    What are you talking about?

  42. Well, Jennifer, I drive down the NJ Turnpike everyday accruing probably about $1500 per year in tolls in order to get to work to make sure that people get their goods. That’s a tax on me to get to work for you.

    JMJ

  43. Well, Jennifer, I drive down the NJ Turnpike everyday accruing probably about $1500 per year in tolls in order to get to work to make sure that people get their goods. That’s a tax on me to get to work for you.

    And you didn’t factor in the cost of these tolls when you took the job? I could just as easily say that the clothes I have to buy to meet professional dress standards are a tax on me, but I won’t, because I don’t want to sound like a whiny idiot.

  44. …thus the mere odomotor inspection would not meet all those needs.

    The whole point of calling those completely unnecessary things “needs” is:

    I’m inclined to think this sort of thing can be traced to a supplier of GPS equipment, some legislators, and a passel of corruption.

    Bingo.

  45. Jennifer, the point I am making is that the tolls cost me productivity (sitting in traffic) and taxes on services (getting to my job) so that I can perform services for you. Are you missing something here?

    JMJ

  46. Jennifer, the point I am making is that the tolls cost me productivity (sitting in traffic) and taxes on services (getting to my job) so that I can perform services for you.

    You’re perfectly free to move closer to work or find an alternate route to get there. Or are you suggesting that you be exempt from tolls because you drive for more important reasons than others?

    I agree that gas taxes are better than tolls, by the way; I’m simply suggesting that tolls are better than government-mandated GPS systems that track every single place you go.

  47. the tolls cost me productivity (sitting in traffic) and taxes on services (getting to my job) so that I can perform services for you.

    So move.

    Or get a different job.

    Geez.

  48. Jersey “Women-Killer” McJones:

    “The point is that, after people stop committing the tax-discouraged “sin,” the government doesn’t brush off its hands, say, “Mission accomplished!” and that’s that.”

    Ah, but theoretically they can. And that is the point. It’s up to we citizens to put their feet to the fire on that. 😉

    Yes, theoretically a man can stop beating his wife.

    And why do you criticize when we libertarian citizens make the uproar that is the first step of putting said feet to fire?

  49. Jennifer and RC,

    “You’re perfectly free to move closer to work or find an alternate route to get there. Or are you suggesting that you be exempt from tolls because you drive for more important reasons than others?”

    You both completely missed the point.

    Stevo,

    “And why do you criticize when we libertarian citizens make the uproar that is the first step of putting said feet to fire?”

    I do? I criticize the anti-American anti-Constitution anti-Government stance that you libers take that specifically precludes putting anyone’s feet to the fire!

    JMJ

  50. Trollum delenda est.

  51. Yeah, I know, PL. Sometimes reading a thread with JMJ on it is like watching an incontinent dog trying to mark its territory.

  52. PL, you really add a lot.

  53. This is ideal to the Right because it’s regressive and hits working class people who often have to drive long distances to work because they can’t afford homes in the outlying areas close to commercial centers.

    What the hell are you talking about? It’s the people who make MORE money that tend to have the long commutes. Because they don’t want to live in the urban centers with the poor folks. And because they can afford to make a commute. If I’m wrong, tell me why you don’t move closer to your job? Let me guess, you just don’t want to live down south, because South Jersey isn’t as nice?

  54. Just so the rest of you guys know, this:

    And I love it when you Libers complain when a sin-tax kills itself. How both hypocritical AND uninformed! Why on Earth would you geniuses care if the tax base dries up and the gov’t can’t get at it anymore? Isn’t that ideal anyway? Jeez…

    … is not a criticism, no sirreebob.

    Oy. I give up for today. Ron White is right.

  55. Ya know, I really am against the forcible commitment of the insane, but there’s a recently arrived poster that’s making me radically rethink my views.

    Who says libertarians never consider changing their minds?

  56. Jersey,

    I am not sure I am following you, which I feel like usually I can. Are you saying that the tolls need to be spread across the entire tax base because everybody benefits from the driving of the people who do drive? If this is what you are saying, I think I disagree both because you have some discretion in your driving that the tax base at large does not, but also because the benefits of your driving can be passed by you to the small segment of the tax base who benefits from you.

    Maybe that is not what you are saying.

    Maybe you are saying that the time in traffic and the payment transaction amount to needless tranaction costs. The transaction costs might even dwarf any efficiency gained by targetting the tolls to usage. If that is what you are saying, then maybe you are correct

  57. “With the pilot program, the data “will be routinely erased, except for the most recent gas pump receipt, said James M. Whitty, manager of the Office of Innovative Partnerships and Alternative Funding at the State Department of Transportation.”

    Yeah, and the BATFE doesn’t regularly go into gunstores and record the private forms in an FFL’s bound book.

  58. Hmph. JMJ is from New Jersey. Is anyone else surprised by this?

  59. Well, linquist, you may be a linquist but you ain’t no demographer!

    “It’s the people who make MORE money that tend to have the long commutes. Because they don’t want to live in the urban centers with the poor folks.”

    Yes, sometimes that is true. But here in the NYC area, for example, most of the very wealthy live pretty close by and most of the lower tier workers live farther out. Most of the very poor urban centers have no real commercial sector to speak of. As for South Jersey, eh…

    Questioner,

    “I am not sure I am following you, which I feel like usually I can. Are you saying that the tolls need to be spread across the entire tax base because everybody benefits from the driving of the people who do drive?”

    Basically yes. I don’t really even like the gas tax, to be honest, though I do see it as a more reasonable sin tax than a mileage tax (though the two are very similar).

    “Maybe you are saying that the time in traffic and the payment transaction amount to needless tranaction costs. The transaction costs might even dwarf any efficiency gained by targetting the tolls to usage. If that is what you are saying, then maybe you are correct”

    I am saying that too, yes.

    JMJ

  60. Jersey McJones, I know I’m a libertarian idiot and everything, but I’m getting a little tired of this venue being dominated by arguments with you. If you were a little more careful in your pronouncements, read in good faith what people are saying, or even made logical arguments at all, I’d be far more tolerant. This is hardly a forum where everyone agrees all of the time, after all.

    There are plenty of people here with whom I disagree. For instance, Jennifer and I were on opposite sites of the Dubai Ports debate. But, see, it was a debate, not just a bunch of bald, unsupported statements aimed at ticking off a known libertarian audience. Therefore, I don’t suggest her destruction with Cato-like vigor.

    I’m sorry if I’ve been rude (and I don’t mean any of this personally–it’s not like I know you or anything. . .or do I?), but it’s quite frustrating. We libertarians have so few places to call home, and we’ve been really overrun lately by trollish visitors. Your ilk already controls half of America–how about letting us have our measly 0.0000125%?

    As for my contribution, well, sometimes I’m in the mood to play Constitutional scholar, sometimes I think everything is eligible for fun-poking. Thus do I engage in discussions about women in showers, top 100 libertarian president listings, etc., etc., etc. when I’m not noting that the Second Amendment may not have been incorporated into the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process clause. Frankly, I think the former stuff is more interesting. Law is a bore.

  61. I wonder how they would handle the lost revenue from gas used in non-road use vehicles (off-road motorcycles, ATVs, golf carts, boats, lawn mowers, etc). Maybe not a significant percentage of gas sales?

  62. Pro Libertate,

    “Jersey McJones, I know I’m a libertarian idiot and everything,”

    Hey, take it easy on yourself man!

    I appreciate the lesson in debating. I’ll file under, “PL – Misc.”

    JMJ

  63. Pro Libertate,

    “Jersey McJones, I know I’m a libertarian idiot and everything,”

    Hey, take it easy on yourself man!

    I appreciate the lesson in debating. I’ll file under, “PL – Misc.”

    JMJ

  64. Sigh. I probably spend too much time around here, anyway. I should be out gouging corporate clients like a good lawyer. Or oppressing the weak. Or destroying the free market.

  65. Sigh. I probably spend too much time around here, anyway. I should be out gouging corporate clients like a good lawyer. Or oppressing the weak. Or destroying the free market.

    Well, probably on the gouging, but don’t take T. too seriously on the other stuf.

  66. Can we talk more about women in the shower? Maybe in connection with a theoretical device that measures water flow and taxes it? (And the privacy concerns thereof.) I could easily see something like that happening in California. To showering starlets especially.

  67. “Folks, in thirty years, cars will drive themselves. Yes, every darned bit of this will be recorded, too. In thirty five years, the safety record of AI-driven cars will be proven so superior to human drivers that meat-computer driving will be banned on public roads. I am not joking.”

    I used to think that too. Until someone pointed out that people want to drive their cars. Which means there’s no demand for AI-driven cars.

    Attitudes change. It may happen in thirty-five years, I just wouldn’t bet on it.

  68. Mr. Koppelman,

    but it seems pretty close to the libertarian dream from the pay-for-what-you-use standpoint.

    That might be true if there was competition for the ownership of roads, but there basically isn’t.

    encourage the commuter upset at paying the real cost of her or his commute

    The only part of driving that is subsidized is the gasoline, mostly via our Dept. Of Defense protecting some of the oil-producing nations. I suppose one could argue that eminent domain has enabled governments to take real estate needed for roads at below-market prices, but I doubt most libertarians encourage such practices.

    The gas tax sort of works now in a distorted way, but it doesn’t adequately address local roads.

    And it shouldn’t. Local roads are generally covered via property taxes. The road in front of my house does me a lot of good even if I never drive.

    there will be enough high-efficiency and alternative-fuel vehicles (hybrids, electrics, fuel-cell, whatever) on the road that a gasoline tax will be even less proportional to an individual’s road use.

    Alternative fuels can’t be taxed? Check out the taxes in place when buying and disposing of tires and automobile batteries.

    It’s about time this country’s cities stopped subsidizing suburbia.

    Pure baloney. And I live in Chicago so I would have an economic incentive to belive such a thing.

  69. The infrastrusture of the nation and it’s states is the responsibilty of the nation and it’s states. It should be financed by the same income taxes that we all pay.

    JMJ

  70. I am told that America uses too much gas. We’re addicted to oil. We’re selfish neaderthals polluting the planet.

    I’ve seen no data to suggest that gasoline usage has declined. Yet, Oregon is complaining that we’re not using enough gas? Is it more likely that they’re just spending too much?

    Who’s going to pay to retrofit all the cars already on the road?

    All we need is for the DOJ to use this data to bust a few Medical Marijuana providers. That’ll teach Oregon a lesson…

  71. I used to think that too. Until someone pointed out that people want to drive their cars. Which means there’s no demand for AI-driven cars.

    Attitudes change. It may happen in thirty-five years, I just wouldn’t bet on it.

    jeffiek, I think that’s a good point, but if robots get to, say, 10X human safety levels on the roads, I think the liability associated with insisting on your right to drive will become prohibitive for most people. Regulators, do-gooders, and insurance companies will easily overcome any outcry for the right to run into your fellow citizens. It’s not like the safety belt or helmet issues, either, because a truly reliable, safe, and networked automated automobile system could save tens of thousands of lives a year. And usher in flying cars, which won’t come as long as crazy human beings are at the controls 🙂

  72. If California were to start directly monitoring and taxing the flow of water through showerheads, would supple California starlets take up the practice of showering together — “shower-pooling” — to ostentatiously save water (and money)? Would this practice be condoned by the Green Left? Or condemned by the Religious Right? If the latter prevail, would police officers conduct no-knock shower raids to make sure such “cheating” wasn’t taking place? Could this possibly involve Keira Knightly, Penelope Cruz, the two girls from Smallville whose names I can’t remember, Debra Messing, and the entire female cast of Firefly? And could this lead to the best episode of COPS ever?

  73. Stevo, maybe that’s what really is going on. Every crazy law, every stupid politician comment, every strange fad is really just a Freemason/Illuminati plot to reach precisely the situation that you’ve described. Huh.

  74. Pro Libertate

    If that’s so, what do you suppose is the anticipated outcome of the Florida House making Key Lime Pie the State Pie?

  75. Could this possibly involve Keira Knightly, Penelope Cruz, the two girls from Smallville whose names I can’t remember, Debra Messing, and the entire female cast of Firefly?.

    Three words, Stevo:

    Pay

    Per

    View.

  76. Isaac Bartram,

    “Key Lime Pie” is a code for “Kissing Lesbian Persons”?

  77. JMJ obviously doesn’t know dick about Oregon politics if he thinks that this is a “conservative” plot. Basically, if you think you have a crazy, half-baked public policy idea that no one in their right mind would ever implement, just contact the Oregon government–they’ll probably give you a grant and proclaim you a genius.

    “Office of Innovative Partnerships and Alternative Funding at the State Department of Transportation”–otherwise known as Place to Stuff the Useless Cousin of Somebody Important. Seriously, the very fact that such an office exists makes me shudder.

    Awhile back, I actually read the study that the Ore. govt. produced about this concept. So far at least, they wouldn’t propose retrofitting existing cars. They would maintain a dual system of gas taxes for existing cars and the GPS system for new cars, both of which would be payable at the pump. Gas station operators would have install readers/transmitters at the pumps that would check the mileage data and transmit it to the state. Leave it to Oregon (and I say that as a product of said state and a UO alum) to come up with a proposal that is expensive, cumbersome, complicated *and* intrusive! WooHoo!

    Spend five minutes watching the evening news about the Ore. govt. and you too will want to become one of the state’s increasing number of meth-heads.

  78. Isaac,

    Genius, I want to tax gas at the pump while you loonies want to have sattelites and weigh stations and God knows what else to tax driving itself – and you say I want to control the world?

    What a maroon.

    JMJ

    OK, you want to tax gas at the pump. Actually, a suprising number of libertarians would feel the same way. It’s actually a pretty sensible way to go about highway funding, since it does two things:

    1 – It scales nicely with the wear on the road, since road wear is a function of miles traveled, mass of the vehicle, and speed of the vehicle, which are also most of the main variables effecting gas consumption.

    2 – It enhances the market incentive to conserve energy.

    Now most libertarians would want it minimized to the numbers required for highway funding, and some have some wacky ideas about privatizing roads (especially major arteries).

    You made a few other points.

    1 – That libertarians are complaining that the gas tax is killing itself.

    2 – That we want all this high-tech surveilance.

    3 – That we were in favor of nation-building in Iraq.

    4 – That the right wants to specifically introduce regressive measures for the sake of regression.

    With regards to number one:

    The Oregon folks who are putting this proposal forward are not libertarians. Oregon is mostly under the control of blue state progressive-types, so I’d hardly say that this is a libertarian proposal. This blog post is mostly just discussing what the privacy implications of such a system might be, without passing judgement otherwise. However, most posters here have been of the opinion that

    Before you posted, about six of us ‘crazy libers’ proposed simply raising the gas tax. It’s actually a pretty sensible way to go about highway funding, since it does two things:

    A – It scales nicely with the wear on the road, since road wear is a function of miles traveled, mass of the vehicle, and speed of the vehicle, which are also most of the main variables effecting gas consumption.

    B – It enhances the market incentive to conserve energy and reduce greenhouse gasses.

    It achieves both of these goals in a way that does not distort the market substantially, and does not institute technocratic mandates on HOW the consumption is reduced. People can take public transportation, drive more efficient vehicles, or reduce the number or distance of trips.

    In regards to point two: We are curious about the policy implications, and there’s an extent to which we are not knee-jerk opposed to technology for its own sake. However, we’re very much wary of government-mandated surveilance solutions. To the extent that there’s any consensus to the positions of the Reasonoids, we’re certainly not going to be stumping for this kind of bill anytime soon.

    In response to point three: This board was split on the Iraq subject, but probably the majority opinion was that the war was dumb. Libertarian != Neocon. I and many of the other folks on this board thought the invasion of Iraq was a bad idea, a lot of us voted against Bush in one way or another. You may have been confused by some of the ‘Conservatarians’ who are down with Bush’s hawkiness, but there are fewer of those on this board than elsewhere.

    With regards to point four: It’s true that most of us do not reject non-progressive taxation out of hand. However it’s hardly our goal to intentionally shift the tax burden to the working class just to screw the little guy.

    Now that the rational responses are out of the way, I’d like to discuss your posts themselves. They’ve been deliberately distorting libertarian views, they’ve set up strawmen of our positions, and they’ve ignored most of what we’ve ACTUALLY SAID. We need folks around here to post with alternate views, just to keep us from talking in an echo chamber. But your trollish bullshit is just reinforcing the view of ‘progressives’ as morons who can’t think outside of the ‘Republicans love corporations and hate gays’ fuckwaffle stereotype.

    Bush and his crowd are stupid, but you’re not convincing me that your side is better. Or are you one of Rove’s moles, here to set up a strawman to make progressives look stupid?

  79. I am unable to go through the above comments, but with regard to this being a govenment mandate, I always preferred an opt in solution, where default rates are set. If the technology is used the they will get a reduced rate.

    Some provisions would have to be made for making this available to people without much wealth.

  80. Isaac,

    “OK, you want to tax gas at the pump.”

    Well, I’m on the fence about the whole gas tax thing, really. Personally, I’d rather the roads were paid for with regular revenues – income taxes et al. But I do like the tax at the pump for a sin-tax. A mileage tax strikes me as far too arbitrary and regressive.

    You do make more good points about the pump tax here:

    “1 – It scales nicely with the wear on the road, since road wear is a function of miles traveled, mass of the vehicle, and speed of the vehicle, which are also most of the main variables effecting gas consumption.

    2 – It enhances the market incentive to conserve energy.”

    (The latter being the “sin” in the sin-tax, I’m sure you’d agree)

    “Now most libertarians would want it minimized to the numbers required for highway funding, and some have some wacky ideas about privatizing roads (especially major arteries).”

    Here, I disagree. Whether we drive on them or not, the roads serve us all.

    “The Oregon folks who are putting this proposal forward are not libertarians.”

    I know. It’s just that I’ve heard a few libers around here scoff at the notion that sin-taxes kill themselves. I always thought that was the whole damned point! 🙂

    “Now that the rational responses are out of the way, I’d like to discuss your posts themselves. They’ve been deliberately distorting libertarian views, they’ve set up strawmen of our positions, and they’ve ignored most of what we’ve ACTUALLY SAID. We need folks around here to post with alternate views, just to keep us from talking in an echo chamber. But your trollish bullshit is just reinforcing the view of ‘progressives’ as morons who can’t think outside of the ‘Republicans love corporations and hate gays’ fuckwaffle stereotype.

    Bush and his crowd are stupid, but you’re not convincing me that your side is better. Or are you one of Rove’s moles, here to set up a strawman to make progressives look stupid?”

    Libertarianism is adolescent fatalistic optimism combined with a light grip on reality. If you think you can make me “look stupid,” go for it.

    JMJ

  81. Jersey McJones at March 29, 2006 03:32 PM,

    That was not my comment but:

    A mileage tax strikes me as far too arbitrary and regressive.

    I guess expecting people to pay for their beef by the pound and their shoes by the pair is too arbitrary and regressive too.

    Yes, expecting people to pay for what they use. What a fantazmagorical libertarian fantasy.

  82. Jersey McJones at March 29, 2006 03:32 PM,

    That was not my comment but:

    A mileage tax strikes me as far too arbitrary and regressive.

    I guess expecting people to pay for their beef by the pound and their shoes by the pair is too arbitrary and regressive too.

    Yes, expecting people to pay for what they use. What a fantazmagorical libertarian fantasy.

  83. Who forgot to sacrifice to the server gods?

  84. Oregon gas prices are no different than those across the border in Cali and Washington – but we don’t have to pump our own gas. its a pretty sweet deal. i don’t why it is this way – but if your ever in the area, give it a try. drive across one of our state borders and you’ll find gas is within a penny or two a gallon in price. I’ll never vote to allow self-service gas.

    but on the main point – gps tracking of our vehicles is stupid. the gas tax serves all the primary purposes just as well without the loss of privacy.

    you know they have little chips to install in your kids or pets to track them too.

    scary and sick.

  85. As far as AI driving is concerned…given the sheer tedium of Holding The Wheel Straight on most interstate highways, even a driving enthusiast like me would sign up for a computerized replacement for that type of driving, so I can do something else.
    In the state that I live in (Texas) driving standards are so poor that enforcing AI-driven vehicles would certainly improve a lot of things…like me no longer needing a swivelling head in some traffic situations.
    Back to the Oregon issue…the right answer is to fit a small number of vehicles and roads with devices of various types, and do something sensible like Conduct A Scientific Trial. What I fear is that the state will suddenly snap to attention and try to implement A Bright Idea which will result in an economic, civil liberties etc. train wreck which will set back the cause of enlightened transportation reform for years.

  86. Oregon gas prices are no different than those across the border in Cali and Washington

    That is consistent with my experiences with NJ. In my travels up and down the East Coast I had observed that NJ, in fact the lowest prices. I have always understood this to be due to the proximity of refineries, though, and not related to who pumps.

    That may have changed in the last ten years however. Most things have. 🙂

  87. I have always understood this to be due to the proximity of refineries, though, and not related to who pumps.

    The oil companies do not reveal the true reasons why they (parallel) price as they do. To the extent they announce reasons, there is no reason to believe they give the true reasons for their pricing. Your belief on this particular issue is probably either misinformation or specualtion.

    My own speculation:

    oil companies split the US into regions and try to price their product so that profits are maximized for each region. In regions where drivers have a lot of money, this generally means high prices. In regions where drivers have less money, this generally means lower prices. However, there are other factors that probably go into this market segmentation, such as the amount of sprawl a region has, availibility of alternatives to driving, political favors (the enviro-whackos in California get charged more), etc.

    I think they oil companies would be honest about where their pricing really comes from, but they are afraid of: (1) PR trouble; and (2) legal trouble.

  88. Isaac,

    You are not paying for what you use, just the distance you go. If your car has better mileage, then you pay just as much as someone with poor mileage, and that’s self-defeating of the purpose of a sin-tax in the first place. Get your libertarianism straight man! 😉

    JMJ

  89. “…the data “will be routinely erased”….”

    Of course it will.

  90. Your belief on this particular issue is probably either misinformation or specualtion[sic].

    Well, Dave, it most certainly is due to speculation, and it is quite possible I am misinformed. My impression about gas prices in the Garden State is in fact only anecdotal rather than scientific. And it is certainly not based on any bias in favor of the home state of my forefathers (or one thereof anyway).

    It was more thrown out as a “trial balloon” to see if anyone else had the the same impression or whether they would tell me (respectfully, of course:) that I am quite full of shit.

    oil companies split the US into regions and try to price their product so that profits are maximized for each region.

    I would somehow think that is in the “duh” category. But many factors are at play in maximizing profits. So many, in fact, that I have no idea what they are or even how to determine them.

    This is one of the reasons that I am not the CEO of an major (or even a minor) corporation.

  91. Oregon gas prices were traditionally always a few cents higher than across the river in Washington State, and also higher than the national average, also. This seems to have done a 180-degree flip, though, and now my parents there pay less than I do in Virginia (traditionally a cheap-gas state). Why? I haven’t a fucking clue. I think that state taxes account for much of the price differences within regions.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.