Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Take a drive on World Car Free Day

Why?  Because cars are NOT bad.

They have offered enormous choice about where people can live and work and play.  They offer privacy, comfort and flexibility.

Competitive Enterprise Institute spokesman Sam Kazman said:

"The automobile has improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people in remarkable ways. It has taken the mobility once reserved for aristocrats and democratized it, immensely expanding the choices that average people have regarding where to live and work. Instead of pushing a misguided political agenda to reduce car use, we should be celebrating automobility"

The hatred for the car ignores that on a per passenger km basis, the number of deaths and injuries from cars keeps declining, that the fuel consumption of cars keeps improving, and the pollution from cars reducing.   Transport for London estimates that emissions from road transport will drop 30% by 2030 if it simply does nothing because of improved efficiency of engines.

The main problem which has cars as the symptom is traffic congestion caused by the ineptness of governments who run them as a commons, without proper pricing and without any concern for delivering a service to customers. 

The incredible growth in car ownership in China and India is not because people there are stupid, but because they want to have access to travel when and where they want to and carry their belongings easily.   It goes against the wide eyed certainty of planners who think they know best how to organise cities and how people move, but the simple truth is that cars bring good, and the growth in car usage will continue regardless of how cars are fueled.  Indeed regardless of the ways that planners find to tax and penalise car use (although thankfully all fuel tax in New Zealand now goes on land transport spending, which is 85% roads).

The car is one of the most liberating technologies the world has ever seen according to Loren Lomasky.
 He comments on why cars and roads are so well used:

In the end, highways are so heavily used because millions of people judge that driving enhances their lives. The striking feature of the critique of highway building programs is that what should be taken as a sign of great success is instead presented as a mark of failure. But the only failure has been with the critics’ attempts to talk people out of their cars and out of the neighborhoods and workplaces that their cars have rendered accessible. This failure is well-deserved. Automobile motoring is good because people wish to engage in it, and they wish to engage in it because it is inherently good.

If only politicians (and voters) would surrender roads from state control, and let them be run commercially by the private sector, like every other utility shown to be far more dynamic outside state control (e.g. telecommunications, aviation, electricity).

1 comment:

John said...


I visited some of Eastern Europe countries, e.g. Hungary, Czechozlovakia, East Germany, before the end of the Communist system. There was a remarkable lack of cars, and as I understand it even fewer in other countries. They had a huge public transport system as that was the only way to get around. So many ran empty or certainly less than half full.

With the fall of communism what was one of the first things people bought? A car, they loved the freedom of them.