Kurt Cobb is a good writer with many useful things to say, including in this recent post.
Alas, Cobb also seems to be among those still peddling the notion that cars-first transportation is a mere attitude, rather than an imposed institutional requirement of big business capitalism.
But what if “letting go” isn’t nearly enough? What if the powers-that-be will continue to dictate our transportation options, whatever our attitude? What if what we really have is not a shared “car culture,” but corporate capitalism, a.k.a., a globally dominant system of powerful interests and institutions whose primary function is to further enrich the rich? And what if corporate capitalism would implode without the economic stimulation that only cars-first transportation in at least the United States can provide? What then? Would it then be enough for the advocates of decent human survival to continue mistaking “letting go” of a cultural chimera for a genuine effort to rescue human progress from the jaws of historic defeat?
These vital questions seem never to have crossed Kurt Cobb’s otherwise incisive mind.
Interestingly and importantly, Cobb also seems never to have much pondered the conventional rotten history that undergirds both mainstream cant and prior leftist attempts at car-criticism: In Cobb’s mind, by some unspecified means at some unspecified time, “the public have [somehow] agreed to allow the private automobile to become the dominant form of transportation” in the United States.
When, pray tell, was that?
People have certainly purchased automobiles. They have certainly also failed to rebel against the huge, unwavering, unmatched public subsidies private cars have received from the moment of their invention in this paved-over nation-state.
But it is simply a falsity to suggest that there has ever been a serious debate on cars-first transportation in the United States. There has never been such a debate. Not even close.
Consider the last time a major “highway bill” (even the terminology tells you what you need to know) reached the floor of Congress: This was in 2005, four years after 9/11, amid exploding gas prices and clear descriptions of the near arrival of Peak Oil. The proposed bill demoted public transportation’s share of federal mobility monies from 20 to 18 percent — and promptly passed 503-12, with all 12 of the “nays” being cast by Republicans seizing a puffball chance to grandstand their alleged hatred of government. Not a soul — zero Democrats, not the “socialist” Bernie Sanders — raised a peep about the sheer unspeakable insanity of the decision. In early twenty-first century America, despite the headlines and whatever the actual (and unsolicited) preferences of Joe and Jane Sixpack might be, “highways bills” remain far more sacrosanct and “off the table” for debate than even military budgets. As they must. The reality they enable is simply too important to the profit-making system.
This situation is deadly serious, despite its continual non-discussion. This is not a game. We would-be rebels against it can no longer afford to suggest that transcending the automotive-industrial regime is anything less than a huge new call to old-fashioned class struggle. The overclass certainly knows this, and will certainly act accordingly. Isn’t it time we joined them and became as radical as reality itself?