06 October 2009

Who really wants to be car free?

The Duke of Wellington famously loathed railways because he said it would "only encourage the common people to move about needlessly". Sam Kazman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute notes the comment by Prince Charles, himself the owner of six vehicles, on a similar vein. He believed one should be "elevating the pedestrian above the car". I like underpasses too, but he didn't mean that. He certainly didn't mean it for himself.

What is always missing from the anti-car language of the environmentalist movement (and a more peculiar "public transport religion") is the value people attach to having a car. It is so often portrayed as "car addiction" or "car dependent", but the counterfactual put forward, a fanciful notion that everyone was "better off" without cars doesn't bear close examination.

Put it this way. If you live in a modern new world city, consider the locations of jobs you can access with public transport conveniently, and those you can drive to within a reasonable time. The liberating influence of the car is dismissed by the doomsayers, as is the trend of those in China and India seeking to buy cars - as if it is some whim of the ephemeral.

"Living car-free may be fine for many people during some phases of their lives, and it may be fine for some people for all of their lives, but it’s no way for most of us to live — regardless of what Prince Charles and his fellow aristocrats may think" says Sam, and he's right.

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