Re: [carfree_cities] Pro-Car WSJ perspective (fwd)
- It gets much less exposure, but I think Jim Kunstler's blog today is
a good counterpoint to the WSJ article. What Kunstler's crying in the
wilderness has that you don't find in the WSJ article and its
homologues is a sense that there is a moral measuring stick that
applies to our collective and individual behaviour in the face of
what should be widely known and accepted.
November 14, 2005
Years ago, President Nixon nominated a legal nonentity named G.
Harold Carswell for a seat on the supreme court. Derided by the
newspaper columnists as "mediocre," Carswell was defended by a
conservative Nebraska senator, Roman Hruska, who said, memorably:
"There are a lot of mediocre people in America who ought to be
Now Hruska has been reincarnated in Senator Charles ("Chuck")
Grassley of Iowa, who said the following a few days ago:
"You know what? What makes our economy grow is energy. And Americans
are used to going to the gas tank (sic), and when they put that hose
in their, uh, tank, and when I do it, I wanna get gas out of it. And
when I turn the light switch on, I want the lights to go on, and I
don't want somebody to tell me I gotta change my way of living to
satisfy them. Because this is America, and this is something we've
worked our way into, and the American people are entitled to it, and
if we're going improve (sic) our standard of living, you have to
consume more energy."
Like the true-blue mediocre Americans of the Nixon era,
American consumers (as we like to call ourselves) have the
representative they deserve today in Senator Grassley. He expresses
perfectly the dominant thought out there, which is as close to being
not-a-thought as any thought can be. And this kind of proto-crypto-
demi-thought is exactly what is going to lead this country into a
world of hardship.
Instead of preparing the public for changing circumstances
that will inexorably require different behavior on our part, our
leaders are setting the public up to defend a way of living that
can't continue for practical reasons. The question remains: are our
leaders doing this out of cynicism or stupidity, or some other reason
that is hard to determine?
Cynicism would mean that they know exactly what the score is
with the global energy situation and our predicament in relation to
it, and don't trust the public to deal with the truth. Two weeks ago,
I was on a speaking program in Dallas with investment banker Matthew
Simmons, author of Twilight in the Desert, an alarming book about the
state of the Saudi Arabian oil industry. I asked Matt what he has
encountered the time or two that he has had an audience with George
W. Bush. Apparently, the president's reaction to Simmons' message
(which is that we are in big trouble) is a kind of curious
incomprehension, as in the old expression, is that so?
Personally, I don't believe that Mr. Bush or the people around
him do not understand that oil production worldwide has about topped
out, and that whatever oil is left belongs mostly to other people who
don't like us very much. But public acceptance of this reality would
mean the end of many illusions supposedly crucial to our national
life, most particularly that we can continue to be an easy motoring
society, and continue running an economy based on its usufructs.
But the psychology of previous investment is a curious thing.
It compounds itself insidiously, and now we not only suffer from our
misinvestments in an infrastructure for daily life that has no
future, but we also suffer from the political investment in
continuing to pretend that everything is okay. That is, if Mr. Bush
went on TV tomorrow and told the public we have a problem, the public
would want to know why they weren't told sooner, and why they were
not directed to some purposeful adaptive behavior, and Mr. Bush's
team, the Republican party, would be discredited for failing to do so.
While I doubt that the President and his posse are too dim to
comprehend the energy trap we're in, there certainly is plenty of
plain stupidity in the rest of our elected leadership, of which
Senator Grassley's remarks are Exhibit A. To be more precise,
actually, Grassley's statement displays something closer to
childishness than sheer stupidity. It comprises a set of beliefs or
expectations that are unfortunately widespread in our culture,
namely, that we should demand a particular outcome because we want it
to be so. This is exactly how children below the age of reason think,
in their wild egocentricity, and it is the hallmark of mental
development to grow beyond that kind of thinking. But the force of
advertising and other inducements to fantasy are so overwhelming in
everyday American life that they may be obstructing the development
of a huge chunk of the population, something that becomes worse each
year, as proportionately more adults fail to grow up mentally. This
state-of-mind is made visible in Las Vegas, our national monument to
the creed that people should get whatever they want.
What I wonder is: when will my fellow citizens discover that
their thinking and their behavior are unworthy of their history?
That we are entering a time when these things simply aren't good
enough, aren't enough to meet the challenges that reality now
presents. Or are we too far gone? It's possible that we are. After
all, life is tragic, meaning that happy outcomes are not guaranteed
and that people who forget that usually come to grief.
On Nov 14, 2005, at 8:48 PM, Mike Morin wrote:
> The WSJ article was most troubling to me as it was a quite erudite
> in favor of the libertarian pursuit of happiness without giving fair
> consideration to the ethics of sustainability and equity.
> Surely the car culture in the present and recent past (i.e. last
> can appear to be a vehicle of liberty. What the writer does not
> consider is
> that the auto and oil age are a veritable flash in the pan, a super-
> nova of
> the history of man. We must recognize that we are heading into a
> phase with regards to the product life cycle of oil and the
> automobile and
> begin to discuss and hopefully implement plans to move our culture
> away from
> its dominance (i.e. mass transit and relocalization strategies).
> Preying upon the simplistic joys of a cursory freedom, as the
> author of the
> WSJ article does, is a great disservice to future generations and
> to current
> residents of the earth relative to the inequalities of resource
> that the US enjoys with the aid of military and economic domination
> Then again, what would one expect to find in the Wall Street Journal?
Montreal QC Canada
- However, please note that we've made some progress, I quote from the
article's first lines:
>>A few years ago, I made a presentation to my second-grader's socialSo at least children are now changing their minds! I guess Mr Moore is 95
>>class, asking the kids what was the worst invention in history. I was
>>shocked when a number of them answered "the car."
years old and a bit stubborn in thought, so I would look into the brighter
side, though staying on guard.
Carlos F. Pardo
Coordinador de Proyecto
GTZ- Proyecto de Transporte Urbano Sostenible para América Latina y el
Caribe- SUTP LAC
Cr. 14 # 94A-24 of. 409
Bogotá D.C., Colombia
Tel: +57 (1) 635 9048
Fax: +57 (1) 236 2309
Mobile: +57 (3) 15 296 0662
- Visite nuestra nueva sección de Latinoamérica y el Caribe en
- Únase al grupo de discusión de Transporte Sostenible en Latinoamérica en
De: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
En nombre de Mike Morin
Enviado el: Lunes, 14 de Noviembre de 2005 08:48 p.m.
Asunto: Re: [carfree_cities] Pro-Car WSJ perspective (fwd)
The WSJ article was most troubling to me as it was a quite erudite argument
in favor of the libertarian pursuit of happiness without giving fair
consideration to the ethics of sustainability and equity.
Surely the car culture in the present and recent past (i.e. last century)
can appear to be a vehicle of liberty. What the writer does not consider is
that the auto and oil age are a veritable flash in the pan, a super-nova of
the history of man. We must recognize that we are heading into a decline
phase with regards to the product life cycle of oil and the automobile and
begin to discuss and hopefully implement plans to move our culture away from
its dominance (i.e. mass transit and relocalization strategies).
Preying upon the simplistic joys of a cursory freedom, as the author of the
WSJ article does, is a great disservice to future generations and to current
residents of the earth relative to the inequalities of resource consumption
that the US enjoys with the aid of military and economic domination and
Then again, what would one expect to find in the Wall Street Journal?
----- Original Message -----
From: "Andrew Dawson" <m82a1_dawson@...>
Sent: Monday, November 14, 2005 5:05 PM
Subject: RE: [carfree_cities] Pro-Car WSJ perspective (fwd)
> The writings of an auto-crat, perhaps? Take care, Andrew
>>From: Jason Meggs <jmeggs@...>
>>To: WCN <info@...>, email@example.com
>>Subject: [carfree_cities] Pro-Car WSJ perspective (fwd)
>>Date: Mon, 14 Nov 2005 15:49:48 -0500 (EST)
>>I hope they hear a deluge of corrective voices!!!
>>---------- Forwarded message ----------
>>Date: Mon, 14 Nov 2005 10:16:39 -0800
>>From: Tom Martin <tom@...>
>>To: 'C P' <quintanus@...>, bfbc-talk@...
>>Subject: RE: [bfbc] a WSJ perspective
>>Where's the vilification people?
>>From: C P [mailto:quintanus@...]
>>Sent: Monday, November 14, 2005 7:44 AM
>>Subject: [bfbc] a WSJ perspective
>>Wall Street Journal - November 11, 2005
>>The War Against the Car
>>A few years ago, I made a presentation to my second-grader's social
>>class, asking the kids what was the worst invention in history. I was
>>shocked when a number of them answered "the car." When I asked why, they
>>replied that cars destroy the environment.
>>Distressed by the Green indoctrination already visited upon
>>I was at least reassured in knowing that once these youngsters got their
>>drivers' licenses, their attitudes would change.
>>It's one thing for second-graders to hold such childish notions, but quite
>>another for presumably educated adults to argue that automobiles are
>>economically and environmentally unsustainable "axles of evil." But with
>>higher gas prices, as well as Malthusian-sounding warnings about
>>catastrophic global warming and the planet running out of oil, the tirade
>>has taken on a new plausibility. Maybe Al Gore had it right all along when
>>he warned that the car and the combustible engine are "a mortal threat . .
>>more deadly than any military enemy."
>>* * *
>>Welcome to the modern-day Luddite movement, which once raged against the
>>machine, but now targets the automobile. Just last month,
>>organized a "world car-free day," celebrated in more than 40 cities in the
>>U.S. and Europe. In the left's vision of utopia, cars have been
>>replaced by bicycles and mass transit systems. There is no smog or road
>>congestion. And America has been liberated from those sociopathic,
>>gas-guzzling, greenhouse-gas-emitting SUVs and Hummers that Jesus would
>>It all sounds idyllic, but in real life this fairy tale has a tragic
>>As Fred Smith, president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, reminds
>>us, if the "no car garage" had been a reality in New Orleans in August, we
>>wouldn't have suffered 1,000 Katrina fatalities, but 10,000 or more. The
>>automobile, especially those dreaded all-terrain four-wheel drive SUVs
>>(ideal for driving through
>>floodwaters) saved more lives during the Katrina disaster than all the
>>combined relief efforts of FEMA, local police and fire squads, churches,
>>Salvation Army and the Red Cross. If every poor family had had a car and
>>a transit token, few would have had to be warehoused in the hellhole of
>>This month we paid honor to the heroism of Rosa Parks for fighting racism
>>through the bus boycott in Montgomery. What helped sustain that historic
>>freedom cause was that hundreds of blacks owned cars and trucks that they
>>used to carpool others around the city.
>>A strong argument could be made that the automobile is one of the two most
>>liberating inventions of the past century, ranking only behind the
>>microchip. The car allowed even the common working man total freedom of
>>mobility -- the means to go anywhere, anytime, for any reason. In many
>>the automobile is the most egalitarian invention in history, dramatically
>>bridging the quality-of-life gap between rich and poor. The car stands for
>>individualism; mass transit for collectivism. Philosopher Waldemar Hanasz,
>>who grew up in communist Poland, noted in his 1999 essay "Engines of
>>Liberty" that Soviet leaders in the 1940s showed the movie "The Grapes of
>>all over the country as propaganda against the evils of U.S.
>>capitalism and the oppression of farmers. The scheme backfired because
>>from being appalled, the Soviet viewers were envious; in America, it
>>even the poorest had cars and trucks."
>>It's not hard to imagine life in America without cars. If you travel to
>>Third World Country today, cars are scarce and the city streets are
>>with hundreds of thousands of bicycles, buses and scooters -- and peasant
>>workers all sharing the aspiration of someday owning a car. But in America
>>and other developed nations, the environmental elitists are intent on
>>flipping economic development on its head: Progress is being measured by
>>many cars can be traded in for mass transit systems and bikes, not vice
>>versa. The recently passed highway bill establishes a first-ever office of
>>bicycle advocacy inside the Transportation Department. The bicycle
>>enthusiasts seem to believe that no one ever has far to go, that it never
>>rains, that families don't have three or more kids to transport, and that
>>mom never needs to bring home three bags of groceries.
>>Similarly, there is now a nearly maniacal obsession among policy makers
>>the Greens to conserve energy rather than to produce it.
>>Even many of the oil companies are running ad campaigns on the virtues of
>>using less energy (do the shareholders know about this?)
>>-- which would be like McDonald's advising Americans to eat fewer
>>because a cow is a terrible thing to lose. A perverse logic has taken hold
>>among the intelligentsia that progress can be measured by how much of the
>>earth's fuels we save, when in fact the history of human economic
>>advancement, dating back to the invention of the wheel, has been defined
>>our ability to substitute technology and energy use for the planet's one
>>truly finite resource:
>>It is because we have continually found inventive ways to harness the
>>planet's energy sources at ever-declining costs -- through such sinister
>>inventions as the car -- that the average American today produces what 200
>>men could before the industrial revolution began.
>>Studies confirm that the more, not less, energy a nation uses and the
>>not fewer, cars that it has, the more productive the workers, the richer
>>society, and the healthier the citizens as measured by life expectancy.
>>Albania abolished cars, it quickly became one of the very poorest nations
>>The simplistic notion taught to our second-graders, that the car is an
>>environmental doomsday machine, reveals an ignorance of history.
>>When Henry Ford first started rolling his Black Model Ts off the assembly
>>line at the start of the 20th century, the auto was hailed as one of the
>>greatest environmental inventions of all time. That's because the horse,
>>which it replaced, was a prodigious polluter, dropping 40 pounds of waste
>>day. Imagine what a city like St. Louis smelled like on a steamy summer
>>afternoon when the streets were congested with horses and piled with
>>The good news is that environmental groups and politicians aren't likely
>>break Americans from their love affair with cars -- big, convenient, safe
>>cars -- no matter how guilty they try to make us feel for driving them.
>>Instead they are using more subtle forms of coercion. The left is now
>>for a $1-a-gallon gas tax to make driving unaffordable. Washington has
>>wasted over $60 billion of federal gas tax money on mass transit systems,
>>yet fewer Americans ride them now than before the deluge of subsidies
>>When the voters in car-crazed Los Angeles opted to fund an ill-fated
>>system, most drivers who voted "yes" said they did so because they hoped
>>would compel other people off the crowded highways.
>>To be sure, if the entire membership of the Sierra Club and Greenpeace
>>surrendered their cars, the world and the highways might very well be a
>>better place. But for the rest of us the car is indispensable -- it is our
>>exoskeleton. There's a perfectly good reason that the roads are crammed
>>tens of millions of cars and that Americans drive eight billion miles a
>>while spurning buses, trains, bicycles and subways. Americans are rugged
>>individualists who don't want to cram aboard buses and subways. We want
>>open roads and highways, and we want energy policies that will make gas
>>cheaper, not more expensive. We want to travel down the road from serfdom
>>and the car is what will take us there.
>>Mr. Moore is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.
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