Tuesday, May 26, 2009

You Gotta Be Kidding Me

Following up on his astonishing embrace of global warming denialism, here's George Will ranting about trains.

Why does he dislike trains? Well, apparently, because he just loves cars THAT much. And why love cars THAT much? Because of the gub'mint! "It subverted their agenda of expanding government—meaning their—supervision of other people's lives. Drivers moving around where and when they please? Without government supervision? Depriving themselves and others of communitarian moments on mass transit? No good could come of this."

Two problems with this. First, it's hilariously stupid. No, really, I started chuckling as soon as I read the passage. It quite literally doesn't pass the laugh test.

Second, car travel is closely and carefully regulated. You can't drive off the road, at least in many parts of the country. You have to stop at stop signs. You have to wait at stoplights. You can't go above a certain speed. You can't go below a certain speed. You can only drive in certain lanes, depending on what kind of vehicle you're driving and how many passengers you have. You need insurance, you need to be unimpaired, you need to wear a seatbelt... the list goes on.

And, naturally, you can't drive anywhere where you can't find parking, which is one of the major reasons one wouldn't want to drive in a city core to begin with. Public parking is limited (and gub'mint run!) and private parking is prohibitively expensive where and when you need it. Side-of-the-road parking is carefully limited. And because of parking issues, consumers are drastically limited in the sorts of places they can shop. Even if you wanted to shop at a small downtown boutique, the cost of parking and gas would make shopping anywhere other than those gargantuan power centers and shopping malls very difficult.

And because of sprawl (which Will characterizes as "low-density housing", a lovely euphemism if ever there was one) you must drive. You have no choice. Hope you like Wal-Mart.

I'd say, in all honesty, a cyclist is probably freer. Parking's generally trivial, maintainance costs are comparatively tiny, and most cities worth cycling in have accomodations for the things. Plus, exercise.

Freedom isn't what this is about. Will's just trolling, in the best example of internet trolls who somehow manage to reach print. He's hoping the left gets angry, and the right rallies around him and his invocation of "FREEDOM!" like some lightweight bowtie-clad William Wallace.

But, honestly, it just reminds the rest of us how irrelevant people like Will are. Opinion writers are ubiquitous in the post-blog mediascape—I've been at it longer than many, for what that's worth—and Will is neither skilled enough nor inventive enough to distinguish himself. He might as well be on Townhall, for all the sense he makes. I suspect, that's where any successor of his will be relegated as well.

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