Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Trains=Collectivism

According George Will, anyway, who writes:
...the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.
Gee, who knew? Ironically, this is just the kind of phoney, hilarious psychologising Rand specialised in. (Via Krugman)

14 comments:

Neil Parille said...

Dan,

Many liberals here in the US comment about our supposed lack of public transportation and the supposed self-centerdness [sic?] of people driving in their own cars to work.

-Neil Parille

Michael Prescott said...

Yes, there's definitely a class of liberals in the US who believe that while they must drive cars and even fly private planes everywhere (because they are such Very Important Persons), the unwashed masses should take mass transit and like it.

Damien said...

Daniel Barnes,

How can trains be either collectivist or individualists? They're inanimate objects.

Damien said...

Neil Parille,

You wrote,
"Many liberals here in the US comment about our supposed lack of public transportation and the supposed self-centerdness [sic?] of people driving in their own cars to work."

Tell me about it, although, I can't say I would oppose better public transportation. At least here in Southern California there's a shortage of good public transportation. I would like more of it just so we'd have option to use it, if we wanted to. It would certainly cut down on traffic and air pollution a bit.

gregnyquist said...

"How can trains be either collectivist or individualists? They're inanimate objects."

Will's not saying that trains are collectivist, but that the desire to use public money to build them is. The term "collectivist" is here inexact. What Will should have said is that the left's mania for trains stems from a deep-seated, perhaps unconscious desire to boss people around.

Ken said...

Does his complaint extend to the interstate highways? The state and county roads? The airports and air traffic system? The ports? The... you know, suddenly I'm having a great deal of difficulty thinking of any transportation in the United States that doesn't use public money for construction, maintenance, and administration.

gregnyquist said...

"I'm having a great deal of difficulty thinking of any transportation in the United States that doesn't use public money for construction, maintenance, and administration."

There is a difference between building roads and building and running a railroad. The government is not building or hiring out cars to people; nor are they merely building a railroad and letting anyone drive their trains on them. Moreover, there is a fear (whether justified or not) that the building of these railroads is a step toward making it increasingly difficult and expensive to drive automobiles; in effect, herding people away from cars into trains.

caroljane said...

This is a primarily urban problem here in Canada, where most of us live in cities. My son has recently been "essentialized" as a public transit worker, like doctors they can no longer strike.I actually agree with this reasoning. The individual luxury and convenience of a car in urban areas should be outweighed by the needs of the majority of the people to get to work etc. In non-urban areas cars are necessities and public transit is impractical. From each to his need to get somewhere. Ayn Rand and most of the people I know except my son would not like this one bit.

Wells said...

Here's how it actually hangs together.
All forms of transportation take subsidies from the government to run; roads, railroads, airplanes, boats, whatever. There is little difference on this point.

But basically, the more expensive energy becomes the better it would be if we had trains like Japan's Bullet train, or France's La TGV to get around instead of the intrinsically more energy expensive airplane.

Also, the higher the population density, the better the subway and the bus is versus a car. With high population density, you have huge amounts of traffic as more people need to use the same roads, and less parking as rents on land go up so high that a parking lot or eventually even a parking garage is no longer the best way to use the land.

The US population is growing, especially the cities, and oil is getting more expensive. So we will of course need more trains and other mass transit. People who deny this, tanking about stuff like 'trains are collectivist' or something or another obviously has an axe to grind.

gregnyquist said...

"The US population is growing, especially the cities, and oil is getting more expensive. So we will of course need more trains and other mass transit. People who deny this, tanking about stuff like 'trains are collectivist' or something or another obviously has an axe to grind"

In fairness to Will, he not talking about mass transit, he's talking about proposed rail lines between cities, such as between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Such proposals are not justified by economic realities.

Nor is it clear that trains are needed to solve whatever mass transit problems may arise as a result of the soaring gas prices. Where they haven't already been built, trains require the addition of expensive infrastructure. Since we already have plenty of roads, buses make a great deal more sense. Indeed, most places I know of already have a transit system based on buses. More buses can easily be added to adjust to any growing demand caused by high gas prices. The country flat broke and cannot affort building expensive new train systems.

Michael Prescott said...

"The country is flat broke and cannot affort building expensive new train systems."

Tell it to the White House. Amazingly, Obama's 2012 budget calls for an 62% increase in the budget for the Dept. of Transportation, which works out to an additional $48 billion. This is a down payment on a projected 6-year $556 billion program to improve US infrastructure, which presumably includes pricey new high-speed rail systems.

Damien said...

Michael Prescott,

Well, here in California, especially, we need to improve our transportation infrastructure.

Michael Prescott said...

You might want to pay for it with state taxes, then, rather than at the federal level ...

Damien said...

Michael Prescott,

Good idea. local politicians will be more concerned with the issue because their constituents will be.