Liberty Commentary


by Karen De Coster

This is an interesting video of an intersection (a) in Auckland during a power outage with no traffic lights and (b) the next day, after the traffic lights were restored. Note the smooth flow of traffic during a power outage and the resulting spontaneous order, as compared to the traffic backups with the lights working. No doubt that the government knows how to muck up and/or bring traffic to a halt.

This caught my eye because I experience this often going to/from work. I take one surface road from my home to downtown, and things being the way they are in Detroit, when storms knock out traffic lights, it is typically at least one week before they get fixed. In the spontaneous order that results, I blaze through the lights much quicker, and my commuting time is always shortened.

The same day I first watched this video, last week, the traffic lights went out at a major intersection in the ‘burbs where a six-lane divided highway crosses another six-lane divided highway (giving us the famous “Michigan Left“). This might seem a bit tricky to maneuver, however, I noted how carefully folks approached the intersection, and how quickly they made decisions to go/not go. Traffic flowed beautifully and I zipped through the intersection during evening rush hour.

The closest we come to anarcho-roads in a government road system are themodern roundabouts. These first appeared in my part of the world less than ten years ago. They keep traffic flowing while a mostly polite self-organization emerges. Still, Michiganders who are not used to them (ullike the east coast folks) complain and whine about their complexity.