As Inkwell readers know, I am not a fan of spending money on high-speed rail (see, “All Aboard for More Government Waste,” wherein I quote Robert Samuelson opining that high-speed rail is the fast-track to government waste). I’ve naively assumed that liberals want high-speed rail because it makes them feel more European. Oh la la, doncha know? I once even went so far as to advise one of those annoying train enthusiasts to just buy a beret and pack of Gauloises.
But George Will has revealed the real reason the left loves fast trains:
So why is America’s “win the future” administration so fixated on railroads, a technology that was the future two centuries ago? Because progressivism’s aim is the modification of (other people’s) behavior.
Forever seeking Archimedean levers for prying the world in directions they prefer, progressives say they embrace high-speed rail for many reasons-to improve the climate, increase competitiveness, enhance national security, reduce congestion, and rationalize land use. The length of the list of reasons, and the flimsiness of each, points to this conclusion: the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.
To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends. Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they-unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted-are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.
Time was, the progressive cry was “Workers of the world unite!” or “Power to the people!” Now it is less resonant: “All aboard!”
Yeah, they love trains. But whaddaya bet Al “Carbon Footprint” Gore will continue to fly?