These letters  in today’s Washington Post reflect a widespread, lamentable ignorance of the role of prices. Many of these readers assume that only if and when drivers are charged tolls to access roads is there a price paid to use roads. These readers ignore the fact that spending time on traffic-choked ‘free’ roads is itself a very real cost, and that tolls will reduce this cost.
The misunderstanding in these letters is evidence that economists are the last people who are obsessed with prices — the last people who believe that the only things that matter are money and costs expressed in money. Rather, it’s non-economists who are obsessed with money measures and money prices; it’s non-economists who are most prone to overlook costs that aren’t pecuniary — to assume that only when people make monetary outlays do people incur costs.
Using a different tactic for making the case for toll roads — a tactic different than pointing out that ‘free’ roads are far from being free — Cafe Hayek’s colleague Vernon Smith  points out that "providing free access subsidizes those able and willing to pay. Why do they [opponents of toll roads] like subsidizing the rich?" (This quotation is from a private e-mail that Vernon sent to me today.)