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Keep Driving!

By Matthew Yglesias

"Keep Driving!"

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One of the weirdest things about political punditry is that “the status quo should remain the same!” or “I’m taking the side of the powerful and wealthy interests who currently control American public policy!” can be packaged as bold and contrarian. Thus, Terry Box’s Washington Post column about how he likes to drive:

I know that my days as an unrepentant gearhead may be numbered. Sky-high gas prices, global warming, urban sprawl, maybe even the “oil war” in Iraq, are all being piled on cars. Yet despite the growing drumbeat against them, the allegations that they’re melting glaciers and maiming thousands, the claim that we’re choking on them, the fear that they’re our worst national addiction, I love them dearly.

They are my “carma.” And I refuse to go on the national guilt trip about them.

And, look, fine. If Terry Box wants to drive a gas-guzzling car, he should be free to do so. But what he shouldn’t be free to do is to expect large explicit and implicit subsidies. If we prices carbon emissions correctly, balanced funding between highways and transit, and regulated land use sensibly I bet people would drive a bunch less than they currently do. But I also bet people would still drive a lot. People drive much more on average in 2008 than they did in 1978, but it’s hardly as if the United States was a car-free zone thirty years ago. Nor should it become one! But while I’ve never actually heard anyone on the urbanist or green side of the debate argue that we should become a country without cars (as opposed to a country with somewhat fewer, somewhat more rarely used cars) I feel like every week I read a column about how Americans will never abandon their cars.

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