Cars and the Crappy Society

Heather McGhee ponders an important question:

Over a two-decade career in the white-collar think tank world, I’ve continually wondered: Why can’t we have nice things?

Heather McGhee, The New York Times, February 13, 2021

McGhee explains what she means by this:

image of billboard showing american way ideology
Notice the automobile…

By “we,” I mean America at-large. As for “nice things,” I don’t picture self-driving cars, hovercraft backpacks or laundry that does itself. Instead, I mean the basic aspects of a high-functioning society: well-funded schools, reliable infrastructure, wages that keep workers out of poverty, or a comprehensive public health system equipped to handle pandemics — things that equally developed but less wealthy nations seem to have.

McGhee reviews the ways in which white racial ideology prevents this movement toward reason, comfort, and social democracy.

Here at DbC, we would endorse this but add that cars-first transportation is also a major reason we in the USA remain stuck on our continent of kooky, harmful, maldistributed geegaws. With kindest apologies to Adam Smith, it seems that, upon completion, building human societies to maximize the sale of goods and services is not quite the same thing as building human societies for the maximum benefit of all.

When you prioritize the money-seekers’ values, the end results are not, in fact, all that similar to those that maximize the general welfare. Commodities and human thriving are not, it turns out, the same thing. However much the world might have disguised this point back in the 1770s, in the 2020s, it is getting pretty hard to miss.