Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The War Against the People

My dad, who is an immigrant to this country, is a great student of history. He recently remarked to me that there has been a tug-of-war been two opposing philosophies about people in this country since its inception, with elitism on one side and populism on the other.

Rachel DiCarlo captures the spirit of this conflict in her article about the war against the automobile. In discussing the freedom to choose the best transportation option, she says, “Cultural elites and central planners aren't interested in arguments about these types of choices because they think that, given the choice, ordinary citizens will usually make the wrong one.” This conflicts with the populist view that the voice of the people will ultimately be better than the voice of a few high-minded snobs.

DiCarlo doesn’t gloss over the problems created by cars, but she also discusses the significance of personal automobiles to culture, society, and individual lives. She explores the fact that the rise of the automobile has been the single most important factor in raising the standard of living, with the greatest positive impact being on the working poor.

DiCarlo takes on many of the anti-car crowd’s most cherished arguments. She notes the steady increase in personal driving as opposed to the recent decrease in use of mass transit. She seems to suggest that, although the car presents a number of problems, we should get busy addressing meaningful ways to resolve them, as many of the elitist solutions are not working.

DiCarlo concludes with yet another example of the elitist-populist tug-of-war. Describing the anti-car crowd’s world view, she says, “To them, the car is a symptom of an entire lifestyle they find objectionable: that is, mobility and choice for all.” In fact, when you look at the elitist proposals, they don’t even do much to hide this philosophy.

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