May 22, 2015

Quotes: “The Plot Against Trains”

A perhaps appropriate way to begin this day – with quotes from a New Yorker essay by Adam Gopnik.


The Plot Against Trains


Everyone agrees that our rail system is frail and accident-prone … And everyone knows that American infrastructure—what used to be called our public works, or just our bridges and railways, once the envy of the world—has now been stripped bare, and is being stripped ever barer. …

What is less apparent, perhaps, is that the will to abandon the public way is not some failure of understanding, or some nearsighted omission by shortsighted politicians. It is part of a coherent ideological project. …

What an ideology does is give you reasons not to pursue your own apparent rational interest—and this cuts both ways, including both wealthy people in New York who, out of social conviction, vote for politicians who are more likely to raise their taxes, and poor people in the South who vote for those devoted to cutting taxes on incomes they can never hope to earn. There is no such thing as false consciousness. There are simply beliefs that make us sacrifice one piece of self-evident interest for some other, larger principle. …

Part of this, of course, is the … reality that the constitutional system is rigged for rural interests over urban ones. … Mass transit goes begging while farm subsidies flourish.

What we have … is a political class, and an entire political party, devoted to the idea that any money spent on public goods is money misplaced, not because the state goods might not be good but because they would distract us from the larger principle that no ultimate good can be found in the state.  … Trains have to be resisted, even if it means more pollution and massive inefficiency and falling ever further behind in the amenities of life—what Olmsted called our “commonplace civilization.” …

Trains take us places together.

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  1. Of relevance to this discussion is this article by Julie Doubleday on attn: “How Two Billionaires Are Destroying High Speed Rail In America”. Which is about the Koch brothers, the Reason Foundation and their opposition to all kinds of public transportation not just HSR.

    This is her concluding paragraph

    I wanted to write a story about high speed rail in America, but the story of high speed rail in America turned out to be the story of special interests and big money. And it seems like, more and more, that’s the only story surrounding politics in this country. It’s the story of environmental deregulation, the story of economic policy, the story of healthcare reform and highway construction and FDA restrictions and prison privatization and education standards. It’s impossible to write a different kind of story because the same characters pop up, in the same roles. We are all tired of hearing this story, because the villains are too intimidating and the heroes are thin on the ground. It’s easier to tell stories where there are discussions and arguments, where there are two opposing opinions, where there are facts and where there is honesty. But to have a discussion or an argument, one first must have a voice. And in this swirl of dark money, campaign finance failures, propaganda, attack ads, think tanks, lobbyists, policy advisors, corporate interests, two billionaires of one mind, one country of two parties, that is what we have lost.

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