Out of Control Policy Blog

"The Auto-Hater Gives His Opinion And Acts"

Yesterday David Friedman posted an interesting article from the September 10, 1911 issue of New York Times Magazine entitled "The Auto-Hater Gives His Opinion — And Acts," on his blast from the past Sunday Magazine blog. (For those unfamiliar, Friedman started the blog last year by posting articles published in the New York Times Magazine exactly 100 years earlier.) The piece begins with the author criticizing new automobiles:

“There goes another of the infernal things!” snarled the man waiting for a (street) car as he stamped his heels against the curb...

"Wonder who was the first man to think of autmobiles," went on the man, talking now to the sad eyed little chap at his left. "Whoever it was I hope they sort out the sheep and goals, that they get him in the right place, and that somebody runs over him with a million horse power drab automobile about forty times every afternoon. I sure do. Why, honestly, friend-of course I wouldn't want to see anybody get hurt or anything-but if I ever see one of these gasoline wagons blow up into a million and one pieces some day, same as a toy balloon, then I'll just about laugh myself to death that's all..."

The author, tired of waiting forty minutes for a street car, dramatically changes his tone when a friend driving by in an automobile offers to drop him off "within a block of (his) house." Speaking of his friend's automobile, the author concludes:

"Well, well, here we are pretty nearly home already. Better'n street cars. Isn't it? If there's anything I hate it's to sit in a street car with a lot of silly looking old women glarin' at me and whispering mean things about me among themselves, because I don't give up my seat, or pickin' flaws in my necktie. 'Tisn't often though that I get a seat. (Street) cars are always crowded like a Sunday dollar excursion train. Oh, but there's some sense to this kind of traveling! You betchuh! Ah, here we are. I must say I'm sorry it wasn't a longer ride. Well, mebby in another year I'll have the price of one of these carts myself. S'long and much obliged to you!"

100 years later it is safe to say that "auto-haters" remain among us who are puzzlingly not so easily convinced of the benefits of automobiles. While this article does not compare to contemporary transportation policy research, such as Reason Foundation's robust Galvin Mobility Project, it does effectively highlight two early benefits of automobiles: convenience and privacy. 

The full article is available online here.

For more on this, see Reason Foundation's Galvin Mobility Project and Transportation Policy Research Archive.

Harris Kenny is Policy Analyst


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