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Re: Traffic as a Social Ill

by Mike LaHaye

So David thinks traffic is the worst thing ever (Scroll down 7 inches to read it, because even I’m not vain enough to link to my own blog that has two posts).

Because I’m a human who does not run an oil company, I agree that traffic sucks. I think he totally misses the forest for the trees in seeing traffic as the ill and not a symptom of some real identifiable problems.

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1) We live in a country where we know how to build a better transportation system from scratch than the one we have. I live in a really idiotic suburb with little useful mass transit, and no good way to build a mass transit system that will serve the people where they live today. I don’t know that we live in a country that knows how to make serious investments to prevent problems that don’t exist yet, but undoubtedly will if we don’t stop scaling up our present way of doing things.

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2) People spend a lot of time sitting in traffic because they work far away from where we live. We live in a country where white people left the cities when black people started to move into them. Our neighborhoods are still shaped by the white flight. Quality schools, safe streets, and having a social good grocery store here and there keeps money in the suburbs 50 years after redlining ended.

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3) Automotive companies and unions and oil companies stand to lose a lot of money if people live closer together and spend less time commuting and burning fuel and wearing out their cars. And the people that run car and oil companies have a lot more political influence than the people that MIGHT live in a high rise condo and ride a subway to work if they existed.

As I said, I’m not really disagreeing that traffic sucks. It’s fixed time that we’re doing nothing but listening to music and risking death. But shouldn’t we call heavy traffic a symptom of the real diseases of racism and cronyism and a dysfunctional legislative system?

 

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Illiberal Liberalism

by dloughin

Via this David Sessions piece in Patrol Mag on how American cultural critics are (mis)handling European sources:

What are they so afraid of? If Anglo-American political theory and liberal-capitalist political systems are so superior, then what do they have to fear from a few fringe theorists writing books? While I understand the entertainment value of a withering takedown, I will never understand the desire to finger-wag ideas off the stage before the fight can even begin. One doesn’t have to be at all radical to respect and welcome a good-faith conflict between ideas, and to believe that engaging even the ones that creep you out can’t help but improve your own. (As Stephen Metcalf put it responding to the Romano travesty, “I never thought the answer to illiberalism was more illiberalism.”)

The notion that “responsible politics” have to be protected from dangerous intellectuals is itself an ideological danger, one that risks excusing the enormous, ongoing, and entirely preventable crimes of our political system. It’s precisely this unquestionable ideology of inevitability and givenness that people like Badiou and Žižek are attempting to unsettle, and the reason I suspect they inspire such anti-intellectual reaction.

Traffic as Social Ill

by dloughin

Why don’t more people view traffic as a great social ill? There are four primary headings under which this can be organized:

  1. Lost productivity: Sitting in traffic can be an excellent opportunity to create human capital, but most do not take advantage of this. Further, there are plenty of better uses of time that are cannibalized by wasting away behind the wheel.
  2. Accelerated Climate Change: Move to point 3 if you are convinced climate change is pseudo-science. If you have any interest in spelling the inevitable, you shouldn’t like traffic. We can acknowledge that people need to move across fixed distances–whether we travel too much is a different debate–while also acknowledging that traffic exasperates the amount of fossil fuel burned to generate the required amount of movement.
  3. Social/Familial/Relational Fragmentation: More time spent in traffic–assuming a fixed, structural portion of time devoted to sleep and work–necessarily decreases the time available for relationships with friends, family and loved ones. There is too much literature in existence already to doubt that ours is an age of decreased relationship. Some may argue that this is not cause for concern, but what cannot be argued is that traffic doesn’t accelerate this process.
  4. It Sucks: If we’re in the business of building a better society (on whatever scale you find most applicable), then getting rid of such an obviously terrible experience should be a priority.

Increased availability and scope for public transit as well as the advent of a driver-less car could spell some portion of these effects. But as is the case with anything Anonymous, you first have to admit you have a problem.