Automobility and its Enemies

Rachel DiCarlo defends automobility against its critics in the Weekly Standard:

Automobile opponents look back fondly to the early 20th century when streetcars and rail systems served as the dominant modes of transportation. At the peak of rail travel in 1920, the average American traveled about 1,400 miles a year on urban transit and 440 miles a year on inter-city rail, transportation expert Randal O’Toole reports in his book The Vanishing Automobile and Other Urban Myths. No one, except businessmen and the wealthy, ventured farther than a few miles from home. Today, the average American drives 14,000 miles a year and travels more than 10 times as much as his early 20th century counterpart. The automobile has made life better for everyone. It has done so by creating not just mobility, but choice, wealth, freedom, and time.

Check out the full article here. She includes numerous examples of the benefits of automobility, including this:

History abounds with examples of the car becoming synonymous with freedom. Waldemar Hanasz describes in his essay “Engines of Liberty: Cars and the Collapse of Communism” that during the Cold War, when Communists in Poland got their hands on the movie The Grapes of Wrath, they decided it would serve as a good warning about the evils of capitalism. Yet, rather than being horrified by images of the Great Depression, audiences were stunned that in America even the poorest farmers who owned their own cars and trucks could drive wherever they wanted. Car boosters often point out that the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott–the one Rosa Parks inspired–worked precisely because many blacks owned cars and could carpool around the city. Indeed, many civil rights protests would have been impossible to organize without private transportation. Some countries have banned cars. North Korea, one of the world’s most brutal dictatorships, forbade the use of private cars until last year. When Communist Albania abolished the car, its economy disappeared with it. The absence of cars and highways is consistent in the poorest, most oppressed countries in the world.

Cars are crucial to economic self-sufficiency among the poor, even in this country. Check out this research for more.