Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Mass Transit Police State

Normally, I'd think that this is just pathetic partisan fearmongering without any basis in reality:
the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.
However, when a heavily subsidized commuter train system (BART) attacks the First Amendment...

7 comments:

anagory said...

The George Will peice definitely is pathetic partisan fearmongering, spiked with the obligatory red-baiting that is so fashionable with libertarians and other conservatives. The communications blackout is an indictment of BART, not of mass transit per se. EFF asks whether carriers are in the loop. If so, it's also an indictment of capitalism. For decades the courts have held that the Fourth Amendment ceases to apply when you are in your car...everything from photo radar to sobriety check lanes. There's nothing individualistic about the automobile, and if you're one of those people who have a knee-jerk opposition to subsidy (your inclusion of professional-right sites like Hit & Run and Marginal "Revolution" in your blogroll suggests you are), well, mass transit subsidy is a drop in the bucket compared to the massive subsidies behind sprawl and highways. Not just the auto industry, but the automotive lifestyle, is one massive wallow in the feed trough.

Ricketson said...

Thanks for the comment anagory. My suggestion that Will might be on to something was largely sarcastic; there is a clear "progressive" solution to this -- which is to treat BART as a government agency and to treat state-funded (or monopolistic) mass transit similarly to a public right-of-way.

As you point out, Will's assertion that the automobile = independence is blatantly absurd to anyone who has considered alternative modes of transportation (such as bicycles). Not only are cars heavily subsidized, but they are also heavily regulated and trivial to track... not no mention unaffordable to many Americans.

FWIW, I think that Marginal Revolution gave substantial coverage to "the high cost of free parking". I think that libertarians are generally aware of the problems with automobiles... as opposed to people like Will who are either apologists for industry or culture-warriors, and just use libertarian rhetoric in support of economic and cultural conservatism.

Ricketson said...

"your inclusion of professional-right sites like Hit & Run and Marginal "Revolution" in your blogroll..."

I want to point out that I do not necessarily endorse the views expressed in the blogs in my blogroll. For instance, I pretty much always disagree with the writings at Public Discourse and Front Porch Republic.

However, I do generally agree with MR and H&R, so you were not far off in using those as a guide for my opinion.

Still, I do object to their characterization as "right" wing. Leaving aside the generic libertarian argument for being neither "right" nor "left", I just want to focus on one issue -- nationalism.

I believe that nationalism is one of the the most regressive and destructive ideologies around, and it is clearly in the pantheon of the "right". The writings at H&R and MR are typically "post-nationalist" (my term), and may occasionally even present anti-nationalist statements. In contrast, most mainstream "left" sites, such as Daily Kos, are saturated with nationalism.

anagory said...

MR and Reason, to their credit, have been hard on free parking. Of course, they're against it because it's free, not because it's parking.

Nationalism, like libertarianism, is not inherently a leftist or rightist concept. I think of Marginal Revolution as part of the professional right because of the amount of snark they aim at egalitarian ideals. Reason, of course, is basically a corporate-funded think tank.

Ricketson said...

"Of course, they're against it because it's free, not because it's parking."

Well I'd hope so. I'd hope that their opinions are based upon some general principle (such as utilitarianism and egalitarianism -- which are the main arguments against subsidies) rather than just being an obsession with a particular activity. I don't see any reason to be categorically "against cars".

To the extent that terms like right and left have any meaning (in a modern American/Western context), I don't see how nationalism could be anything but "right". If your criterion for right/left is egalitarianism, then I don't see any way that nationalism is compatible with egalitarianism.

There may be some superficial idealized nationalism that is egalitarian, but the necessary dynamics of nationalism will quickly create dominant and subordinate groups. The most obvious is in the treatment of foreigners, who are at best treated as being less deserving than co-nationals, and at worst are a threat to national identity/strength.

Likewise, any nationalist system will quickly marginalize anyone who deviates too far from the national norm in terms of their values and lifestyle. It creates a conservative ruling class (majority) than suppresses cultural alternatives.

...and this is all assuming some sort of idealized direct democracy; the inequality arising from nationalism gets much worse if there is any sort of institutionalized ruling class.

Ricketson said...

Just to clarify, by "nationalism" I mean treating national action as an ideal and support for co-nationals as a moral imperative, as opposed to the pragmatic acceptance of existing national institutions...which leads to post-nationalism, as we recognize and accept the social dynamics that are undermining the national character of those institutions.

rulingclass said...

From anagory's blog "About" page:


"Anagorism is the notion that the exchange paradigm can be overcome; that cooperation can supplant competition. I’ve been accused of being a utopian, but I’d settle for a world in which nice guys and gals finish second last."


1) So, Anagorism=Cooperative Equilibrium without exchange or competition.

I wouldn't accuse that of being Uptopian, more like dystopian.

2) And Nationalism isn't inherently right-wing or left-wing, but it is inherently totalitarian.

3) Any claim that a social order must rest on a (correct) moral foundation is an inherently totalitarian claim. Read my "Libertarianism and Moral Foundations" post for more detail.

The gist is that social constructs, whether property, cooperation, markets, etc are not moral theorems.

4) Critiques of the Political Economy of mass transportation is not an endorsement of whatever political economy of automobile transportation. Identifying such a critique with "right wing" is lousy analysis. The critique of mass transportation, particularly with respect to it's increasing trend of being an instrument of surveillance and control, is correct.