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Carmakers’ Collapse Could Be a Great Thing for Public Transportation

December 17, 2008

Washington is abuzz recently with all the talk about the so-called “Big Three” automakers possibly going bankrupt. If you listen to the politicians and the unions, the collapse of those three companies would spell certain doom for the country. The economy would crumble, hundreds of thousands of people would be unemployed, and your house would spontaneously combust. Sure, alot of the conservative radio show hosts have said “let them fail.” This is coming predominantly from their capitalist beliefs. I understand that view — and agree with it — but I would like to come at this from another angle. I believe the collapse of the Big 3 would be a great thing, not only because I believe in letting capitalism pick the winners and losers, but because it could be a great surge for livable cities. What better way to force cities and communities to provide more efficient public transportation? Propping up a failing industry now would force us to continue down the path that led us to where we are today while merely pushing the collapse of that industry into the future. We all know they are going to go bankrupt anyway down the road. Don’t forget that we bailed out the airlines after September 11, 2001, and Delta, United, Northwest, Continental, and US Airways thanked us by going bankrupt anyway.

This country needs to rethink the basic premise of its transportation system. Providing more money for car manufacturing and automobile infrastructure (thanks to Obama’s new stimulus plan) is only worsening the problem. Americans need to get off their butts and walk! Now, there’s a novel concept. Or how about dusting off your bicycle and using it to get to work? Don’t worry, it will only take a couple of minutes to get the hang of it again. Oh, you live too far from work to ride a bike? Move! Nobody is forcing you to live where you live. You picked that place because you could get a bigger house, but if you could actually ride your bike or walk to work, then you could sell your car and afford the same size place closer to work.

I fully understand that the only reason Congress is having a hissy over the car manufacturers’ impending bankruptcy is because of the unions’ political power. But can we just do what is right for once? I’m sorry if some people have to lose their jobs, but it was their fault for allowing their union to inflate their salaries and benefits to the point where their employers could no longer be profitable. And it was the company’s fault for not having the foresight to see that it could come back to bite them if people stopped buying their product. If we would just allow capitalism to run it’s course, then we could be much farther down the road to a society that isn’t so car-obsessed.

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