There aren’t many goods and services in this country that you can’t significantly upgrade if you have the money.
You don’t like your municipal golf course? Join a private country club.
Don’t like sending your kids to the public school? Pay for private school.
Don’t like flying coach? Fly first class or, if that’s not good enough, fly private.
Don’t like your marginal neighborhood? Buy a more expensive house with better neighbors.
Etc., etc., etc.
But what about driving your car? Let’s say it’s a holiday weekend and you want to get from Point A to Point B, which is 50 miles away. It’s too close to fly. You could have someone else drive you — but still, you’re sharing the same road as everyone else, and on a holiday weekend especially, it’s bound to be really crowded. Wouldn’t it be nice to — well, upgrade to a better road?
That day may be coming. Consider this proposal to put private lanes on the New Jersey Turnpike:
On Monday, the State Senate president, Richard J. Codey, a Democrat of Essex County, unveiled his proposal for a private company to build an extension on the turnpike from Exit 8A to Exit 6 and on the Garden State Parkway from Exit 82 down to an exit in the 30s for drivers willing to pay extra to avoid traffic.
At the same time, State Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, a Democrat from Union County who is chairman of the Economic Growth Committee, offered his own twist, suggesting that the new lanes be reserved for buses and trucks.
Both senators said that the state could not afford a pending $2.7 billion expansion of the turnpike and that bringing in a private company would be the fastest way to raise the money without increasing tolls or taxes.
This is a very muscular form of congestion pricing, which charges more to use the same road at different times of day as opposed to charging more for a different road entirely. It is obviously far more costly (and probably contentious) than, for instance, the first-class line at airport security checkpoints. We are very accustomed in this country to roads that can be used by just about anyone at any time. Could this possibly fly?
It is fun to try to think of other goods and services that cannot be upgraded with more money. One that comes to mind is moviegoing. Variable pricing is not practiced very robustly in the U.S. If you want to go to a sold-out movie on a Friday night, there’s no upgrade substitute as far as I know. Sure, you can build your own screening room, but how do you get hold of a print of the new movie?
Other examples of un-upgradable goods and services?