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Trumplestiltskin

The plot against trains

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The reason we dont have beautiful new airports and efficient bullet trains is not that we have inadvertently stumbled upon stumbling blocks; its that there are considerable numbers of Americans for whom these things are simply symbols of a feared central government, and who would, when they travel, rather sweat in squalor than surrender the money to build a better terminal.

We all should know that it is bad to have our trains crowded and wildly inefficientas Michael Tomasky points out, fifty years ago, the train from New York to Washington was much faster than it is nowbut we lack the political means or will to cure the problem. In fact, this is a triumph of our political system, for what is politics but a way of enforcing ideological values over merely rational ones? If we all agreed on common economic welfare and pursued it logically, we would not need politics at all: we could outsource our problems to a sort of Saint-Simonian managerial class, which would do the job for us.

What an ideology does is give you reasons not to pursue your own apparent rational interestand this cuts both ways, including both wealthy people in New York who, out of social conviction, vote for politicians who are more likely to raise their taxes, and poor people in the South who vote for those devoted to cutting taxes on incomes they can never hope to earn. There is no such thing as false consciousness. There are simply beliefs that make us sacrifice one piece of self-evident interest for some other, larger principle.

What we have, uniquely in America, is a political class, and an entire political party, devoted to the idea that any money spent on public goods is money misplaced, not because the state goods might not be good but because they would distract us from the larger principle that no ultimate good can be found in the state. Ride a fast train to Washington today and youll start thinking about national health insurance tomorrow.

The ideology of individual autonomy is, for good or ill, so powerful that it demands cars where trains would save lives, just as it places assault weapons in private hands, despite the toll they take in human lives. Trains have to be resisted, even if it means more pollution and massive inefficiency and falling ever further behind in the amenities of lifewhat Olmsted called our commonplace civilization.

http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-plot-against-trains

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Buses were essentially forced on every large city in the US by the process of eliminating existing and very efficient rail streetcars. The sad truth is that this OP hits the nail on the head about the very destructive nature of the Conservative mindset. We could have high speed and modern rail systems connecting the entire east coast but instead we have Amtrak sharing aging and ill repaired track not suited for the task.

At the same time we see in Seattle Liberals protesting the docking of a huge arctic oil drilling rig, using plastic i.e. petroleum based kayaks. The irony completely lost on the protesters.


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