Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Sell Amtrak


If we learned anything from the 20th century, it’s that socialism is a disaster. It never works. It never has worked. It  never will work. It is an inherently defective system.

So, why is it then that Americans continue to embrace socialist programs?

Among the best examples of this phenomenon is Amtrak, the government-owned and government-operated passenger train service.

Recently Amtrak received a $2.45 billion “loan” from the Transportation Department.

That’s a real joke.  Amtrak has never made a profit in its 45-year existence. It’s not going to make a profit in the future. So, why would anyone expect it to pay back that “loan”? Indeed, why would anyone lend a penny, much less $2.45 billion, to a deadbeat enterprise that has never made a profit?

In actuality, there isn’t any loan at all. Keep in mind that we are talking about one federal government, which is composed of the Transportation Department, Amtrak, the Pentagon, the CIA, the NSA, and all the other agencies and departments in the federal government that are spending money like it was going out of style. The notion that one federal agency is making a “loan” to another federal agency is ludicrous. It’s like taking money from your right pocket and lending it to your left pocket.

That $2.45 billion “loan” is just another $2.45 billion in expenditures by a federal government that continues to threaten America with national bankruptcy with its out-of-control federal spending.

So, why go through this “loan” nonsense? It’s trickery designed to mislead people, so that they don’t recognize that the federal government that is spending out the kazoo (and which just raised the debt ceiling not too long ago) has just added a whopping $2.45 billion onto the ever-growing amount of federal debt that is hanging over the American people. It’s the same type of trickery that is used to induce people into thinking that they putting their Social Security taxes into some sort of retirement fund when in reality those Social Security tax revenues are being spent on socialist projects like Amtrak, regulatory projects like the drug war, interventionist projects like bombing and assassinating people in the Middle East, and other welfare-warfare state programs of the federal government.

Defending Amtrak, one member of Congress suggested that without it, Interstate Highway 95, which runs along the Eastern Seaboard, would become like a parking lot. What he fails to note, however, is that it was that socialist public-works boondoggle that helped put private passenger train service out of business. If the Interstate Highway System had never been built, transportation would have developed in a more balanced way, possible with first-rate private train service playing a major role in America’s transportation system. The government’s construction of the enormously expensive Interstate Highway System operated as an enormous subsidy to the automobile industry and, at the same time, gave rise to an enormous number of cars crowding local streets, polluting the environment, and destroying private passenger train service.

There is something else to consider: The U.S. Constitution does not authorize the federal government to own and operate a train service.

What should be done with Amtrak? The same thing that should be done with every other socialist enterprise: Sell it to the highest bidder. If it can’t compete in the marketplace, then it goes out of business. Why should Americans be forced to subsidize a socialist enterprise just because consumers might not patronize it were private? Why shouldn’t consumers, rather than the government, be sovereign when it comes to economic activity?

It’s time for Americans to embrace our heritage of economic liberty, private property, and limited government and reject socialism in all its variations. Selling off Amtrak would be a great place to start.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.