by Ryan Avent
Our long national nightmare is over, folks; Matt Yglesias is back. And as good as ever. Apropos of a Washington Post column by Terry Box, explaining how he loves cars and by god you'll never take his car away, Matt writes:
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.
Make an urbanist argument in a public place, and you can count in seconds the time it will take someone to angrily declare that people really like cars and suburbs and sprawl and why do you want to take all that away? The answer is, I don't! If people want to drive or live in a single-family home thirty miles from the center of town, then I certainly won't stop them.
But there is no reason for government policy and subsidies to so heavily favor that kind of growth. To the contrary, there are very good reasons they shouldn't.