Last month I linked a Randall O’Toole article. He calls himself “the Anti-Planner” and has standing appointments with the Cato and Heartland Institutes where he write and researches in defense of the car and traffic as the highest and best use of our transportation dollars.
This is the sort of argument that makes my neck tingle, because it goes against my beliefs. I welcome it, because I would rather read it now than be flummoxed by it at a public meeting of impromptu conversation. I understand that I am just one thinker, and that I do not have a monopoly on good sense or arguments. I am not a fan of good versus evil fights, and I trust that everyone has valid reasons for believing as they do. Even if I see their views as disastrous. So I appreciate arguments that make my heart hurt. They make me a better thinker for challenging my assumptions.
It ensures that I examine my assumptions and step out of the echo chamber. Listening to a wide range of opinions on my most cherished topics means that I have to think more broadly than I would if I was just cozy in the echo chamber of my fellow travelers. Unlike the virtues of indoor plumbing or chimneys, these debates are still hot. We need better than smug contentment to win arguments.
I also appreciate disagreements because they are genuinely exciting. When talking with someone who I don’t agree with at all, I am likely to think of angles I had never considered. I spend more time considering the points of people I disagree with than those who I agree with completely. I have already heard the arguments of my fellow travelers. Disagreements are new input.
This may be a liability. Many in the design professions go far by hewing to a certain viewpoint and defending it against all comers. They have an inhuman sense of self assurance, a synoptic view of the world as broken in exactly one way, and see every dissent as an attack. I see the world as working in service of many people, and only broken when seen from some of those perspectives. If someone is pursuing a course that breaks the world for many, it is at least fixing the wprld for them and their associates.
This is clearly villainy when practiced by the few against the many, but most of our problems are many to many. The world is nit fixed by attacking that which makes it broken, but by serving more or just different peoples’ values. It will always be broken to somebody’s needs. Usually, the people with time , voice and money get their value at the expense of the voiceless. The voiceless have had to adjust or find a way to make their wants known. The trick is to look for solutions that give as much value and voice to as many people as possible.
Indoor plumbing and sewage treatment is one of those goods of civilization that is just about a perfect solution. Surely we have lost some sociality by shunning the public latrines. The homeless, without free and private facilities available have to act illegally in as much secret as they can find. Overall, the drop in disease are well worth the immense capital and maintenance costs of functional plumbing. Mixture of drinking water and sewer waste is still the primary killer of people in the world, and it threatens to get worse as we overpopulate and overdevelop different watersheds. We should be thankful in America that we are wealthy enough to avoid this. Mind the Air Gap.
The evolution of transportation has given much more value over the last two centuries to more people, but at cost to anyone who is not able to use a car. For much of the 20th century, those with cars have enjoyed a nation made into habitrails for the needs of traffic flow. So much so that many have emotional reactions to seeing bikers in the street, or simply do not see walkers in crosswalks. The mobility and economic opportunities for car users have expanded well beyond anything horse owners or transit riders ever enjoyed. All for the price of $7,500 a year per car. As long as the fuel holds.