Wise TibetanMonkey, Most Humble Philosopher
2019-08-11 16:09:52 UTC
Look, I hate to belittle your point-of-view in any way because I once felt exactly the same way, and I can still recognize the great virtue of trying to put in place such a system. The problem with your way of looking at the world is that you take a very top-down approach. You are effectively arguing that the way we are doing things now is "bad", and the way you want things to be is "good". You have a long list of reasons why your way is good, and I am sure you genuinely feel that way.
I don't even intend to disagree with your "ideal world" being ideal in its own way. Obviously there are health benefits, and you could certainly find good reasons for why it would benefit us economically (less dependency on foreign oil). The problem I have with your position is that it really doesn't take into account what people actually want. Or at least what they are actually willing to pay for it. In truth, the entire disposition is based on a totally unprincipled philosophy. Let me explain.
Either you believe democracy can solve our problems, or you don't believe democracy can solve our problems. You seem to be arguing that democracy should produce bike lanes and mass transit. But democracy already exists and has largely not produced those things. So then you argue that we don't really have a democracy, that our government is controlled by special interests (especially oil, real estate, car manufacturers, etc). Which is probably correct, but even if that is true, how do you really know what the people actually want? Or more appropriately, what they are willing to pay for if given the choice?
Let me say, the majority of people don't care at all for bike lanes. The vast majority of the population wouldn't ride a bicycle if there was a bike lane right in front of their house and it took them everywhere they needed to go. In the vast majority of the United States bicycles are impractical, or at least impractical most of the year. Kansas isn't Copenhagen, the weather is terrible, and the sprawl is considerable. If left to pure democratic choice, bike lanes simply would not exist. I mean, look at it like this. Imagine if they could take a bike lane project and its cost, then put it up for direct democratic vote, would it pass? It is extremely unlikely.
Bike lanes and mass transit projects are mostly pushed through by city planners. Who are primarily trying to alleviate traffic and parking issues.
In truth, I find it ironic that you seem to have so much faith in Democracy, when you should actually be disgusted by it. Democracy will not produce what you want it to produce, one way or another. In those places where democracy so happens to have produced bike lanes or mass transit, they are almost universally a consequence of economics, not democracy. In Europe, the only reason mass transit even exists is a combination of extremely high gas prices and infrastructure that predates the automobile (the same goes for New York City). Urban Sprawl is increasing all across Europe.
And all of this really begs the question, who actually benefits from mass transit anyway? The truth is, the only entity which truly benefits from mass transit is the government. The rich don't care about it, and the poor can neither really afford mass transit, or the sky-high prices of everything else that goes to pay for it. As prices rise, the socioeconomic segregation becomes extreme. In those cities where mass transit is most available, are the cities you least want to live if you are poor (or at least white and poor). Do you want to be poor in Chicago or New York City? I don't.
But all of this ignores the only good argument that bicyclists have. Since local roads are paid for largely by property taxes, and since people who ride bicycles pay the property taxes just like everyone else. Bicyclists believe their "share" of the taxes they pay in should go to doing things they actually want, rather than what others want to do with that money. Basically, the bicyclist argument is the exact opposite of democratic choice. Which is actually very common among both those on the liberal left and the conservative right. Everyone wishes the money they pay into taxes would go to the things they actually want. Which is impossible in a democracy. Thus, almost everyone actually despises democracy, they just don't see an alternative.
So is there an alternative?
The problem with democracy is that whoever gets 51% of the vote gets what they want and the other 49% gets nothing. In order for bicyclists to have what they want, you would need to devise a system where minorities are better represented. Where those with only 10% of the vote can still receive 10% of the funding. But if you know anything about politics, you'll realize that politics is largely an all-or-nothing game. When Obama won 51% of the vote in 2012, he declared that he received a "mandate" from the American people. Then declared that the other 49% of the population were just being obstructionists because they didn't win the vote.
That sort of winner-takes-all election system is something that those on the political left will seem to embrace when their candidate is in charge, but then deride when they aren't(the same goes for those on the political right). There is no consistent principled position when it comes to politics and democracy in America, and I don't believe that you can fix it. Yes, we can!
Yes, I can fix it because I'm not addressing America alone but the whole world, and the chain breaks at its weakest link. It may be in Nicaragua or India and we make it happen. And there's another path: All we need is someone recognizable to say #GoBananaRevolution, and we are all in the revolution. I'm in the revolution and live it every day. One way or another, we'll make it happen. People connect strongly and that's all it matters. Tried with thousands of Europeans too and they love it. It's the only chance we got. Yes, we can!