Politics, open government, and safe streets. And the constant incursion of cycling.

Car-Free Day: Take A Stand Against Prosperity! Err . . .

Andrew Leonard highlights a bit of inanity from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (a “libertarian” thinktank):

The Competitive Enterprise Institute is unhappy with the suggestion that we should try to drive less.

From an e-mail alert:

Tuesday is World Car-Free Day. That means you’re supposed to walk, or bicycle, or take a bus, to make some sort of anti-car, anti-prosperity statement. Good luck getting to and from the grocery store. Even more fun if it rains (and can you imagine if this day were scheduled in the dead of winter?). The fact is, the automobile plays a major role in making our lives happen — it empowers all of us to get where we need to go (not to mention respond to emergencies).

The stupidity implicit in CEI’s attack on the idea that there might be some merit in sensibly minimizing our car use is staggering.

It may well be that the folks at CEI aren’t stupid.  But they almost certainly think their audience is (and, well, I’d say that most libertarians are fairly selective about where they apply rigorous thinking).  Leonard goes on:

The point of exercises like World Car-Free Day is to encourage us to be less unthinking in our auto dependence. If it’s a sunny day, why not ride a bike, or take a stroll? Stretching your legs conveys its own reward. And you know what, if there isn’t a grocery store within walking distance of you, maybe there should be.

It’s not for everyone. Hell, as he notes, it’s not even possible for everyone. But the idea of Car-Free Day is to give it a chance. He closes with something that might be meant to be a bit of snark, but may well be the real point of disagreement:

CEI complains that World Car-Free Day is “anti-prosperity.” If their idea of prosperity is living in the suburbs where you have to drive miles to get to the nearest McDonald’s, I guess they are right. But World Car-Free Day really is “pro-good life.” A life in which we use our bodies instead of burning fossil fuels, reside in livable neighborhoods instead of sterile deserts of tract housing, and enjoy the wind on our face instead of the hum of the air conditioner.

The car-bound suburbs have become something of a cultural norm, in the US. And anything (like, say, cycling) that invokes city life – with its lack of space, rampant crime, and scary diversity – is automatically accepted as something to be attacked. But that only works so long as it’s left as an abstract. Once the specific is experienced – the walk to the bar, the grocery run on a bike, the ease of just locking your bike up – it’s much harder to discount. Don’t believe me? Try it.


Epic Troll


A Random Act of Good Government


  1. Peej

    ‘Walk to a bar’ first in the list; I like how you have your priorities straight!

  2. MB

    Keepin’ it real, yo.

  3. LFS

    “… and scary diversity…” Oh, so they desire a different lifestyle and are therefore racist?

  4. MB

    You’re a sensitive one, aren’t you? I wonder how you get through the day, what with you being able to ferret out all these cleverly disguised accusations of racism.

  5. LFS

    I’m sensitive? You’re the one who thinks people who live in the suburb have an issue with diversity. Care to explain it instead of deflecting?

    I actually agree with you about CEI using World Car-Free Day as an inappropriate prop for their issue. But given your remarks about libertarians and suburban dwellers, you are equally guilty of the same charge.

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