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Transportation and Freedom of Choice

This post on public transit by Yglesias makes many good points, including a response to the argument that public transit is a socialist ploy and infringement on liberty:
But of course [conservatives] have nothing to say about genuine infringements of liberty like minimum parking requirements, maximum lot occupancy rules, building height limits, prohibitions on accessory dwellings, etc. that are mainstays of America’s centrally planned suburbs. That’s because to them what really matters isn’t socialism or liberty (certainly nobody who cares about liberty could be as enthusiastic about torture as National Review writers are) but Americanness.
I generally agree, but see it a bit differently. When George Will writes that Ray LaHood is the "Secretary of Behavior Modification," he gets away with it because good mass transit, mixed use developments, bicycle infrastructure, etc. are things that most American metropolitan areas do not have. If a city builds awesome public transit, and lots of people ride it (which is hopefully the goal), then indeed, behavior will have been modified.

(from Flickr user caribb)

To these types of conservatives, it doesn't matter who builds, maintains or operates roads and highways; it doesn't matter that local governments have draconian zoning laws because those things represent the status quo. The status quo is comfortable. For some, it's all they know. Thus, retaining the status quo, no matter how much sense it makes ideologically, is better than making changes, because retaining it requires no modification or adaptation.

There's this perverse notion that the status quo exists in its current form because that's how we, individuals, want it to exist. We don't live different lifestyles than the Europeans because of social and economic incentives that evolved throughout history. Oh no, we live differently than the Europeans because we want to live differently; it's how we've always wanted to live, and to argue otherwise is to somehow deny that we are rational beings able to exercise our ability to make free choices.


Cavan said…
Well said. It's about fear, plain and simple for those Conservative columnists. It's also about intellectual uncuriousity. They refuse to ask about the failures of the status quo.

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