Crazy, huh? Hey, I'd love to drive a limited-access expressway straight from Center City to my corner of Delaware County late at night when I'm tired, but some Communist central planner decided for me that I have would to drive either far north on the Schuylkill or far south on I-95 to get home. And now that they control what direction my car has to go, it's a hop, skip and jump before some pointed-headed bureaucrat is telling me when I have to go to bed and is yelling at me that I have to take the dogs out (oh wait, that last one is my actually wife and kids...)
That insane tale is no different from the new dogma on the right, straight from Glenn Beck's mouth to George Will's keyboard to millions of brains covered in tin foil, which is that trains -- not just the much-maligned high-speed trains, but even the regular gunk-infested slow-moving SEPTA kind -- are really just a big government plot to control your movements. Don't believe me? Here's the latest from the Washington Examiner and Fox Nation.
Yes, it's the war on cars!
[Transportation Secretary Ray] LaHood has become an outspoken proponent of what rabid environmentalists misleadingly call "livability." That's a rhetorical device used by Democratic officials and political activists, as well as liberals in the mainstream media, to justify using government funding to force people now living in the suburbs to move back into densely packed central cities where they would have to depend upon mass transit rather than privately owned vehicles. While that might not seem like such a big difference, it is, because cars enable people to go where they choose when they choose. With mass transit, government decides for you where and when you go.
Right now, I'm picturing a big room in Washington with those men in the funny hats from the new Matt Damon movie "The Adjustment Bureau" and a massive board with the name of every citizen, and your pending fate to board the 5:36 to Narberth or risk destroying the time-space continuum. Get real, Tea Party-addled people! Even if the government manages to spend billions on a high-speed rail program (and trust me on this...it's not happening), no one is "forcing" anyone to move to a city, let alone even ride the damn train.
When President Dwight Eisenhower and the federal government spent billions to create a national infrastructure treasure (and thousands of good-paying jobs) through the interstate highway system, it enabled millions of Americans (I guess myself included) to live in the suburbs...but it didn't "force" them. Millions of others -- including 8 million in New York City and 1.5 million in Philadelphia -- still choose to live in an urban environment in which a car is not required.
Meanwhile, the debate is so silly it makes you wonder how people come to their definition of freedom. We drove into and out of New York City over Christmas and spent two hours just getting into the line for the Lincoln Tunnel, more time than the train would have taken for the entire route. How liberating! On the train you can listen to your iPod and read the newspaper. Now that's freedom.
Look, there's lots of great debates to be had about government and personal freedom -- motorcycle helmets or smoking on sidewalks or bans on trans-fats and so on and so on -- but calling trains a form of Marxist-Leninist control of the masses is simply bat-guano crazy.
You know that, right?
Have a great weekend.