In the early days of the United States, the government certainly saw the benefit of roads. But most politicians didn’t think it was their place to raise taxes to pay for them.
State governments laid claim to all unoccupied land. So state governments would grant charters to private companies to build, improve, and maintain roads on “public” land.
The companies sold stock in the routes to investors, which funded the development of these roads. Tolls made the companies profitable so they could pay back investors.
The government’s only role was granting ownership of certain public pathways to these companies, under the condition that they improve them.
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