November 28, 2003

Andy Duncan on Jeremy Clarkson

Patrick Crozier | Road General

I like Andy Duncan. He reads books. He reads long books with long words, from the front cover to the back cover. And he understands them. And he writes wonderfully informative and witty articles about them (and other things) for Samizdata. Andy Duncan reads books in much the same way I read Page 3. The man is a genius.

So, much as I am reluctant to offer up even the slightest word of criticism to such an intellectual heavyweight, having read his piece on motoring journalist, Jeremy Clarkson I am afraid I’m going to have to. It's this that got me going:

But as the bus-loving New Labour machine has declined, and the car-loving individual has come back...

No, no, no, no, no. I really do object to this idea that driving a car makes you an individualist and that catching a bus or a train turns you into some kind of card-carrying pinko. Sure, there are lots of statists who want to see us out of our cars and on trains and buses but that does not mean that we libertarians have to advocate the precise opposite. My enemy's enemy is not (necessarily) my friend. You might as well argue that (individual-based) golf is good and (team-based) football (or even rugby, Andy) is bad.

There also seems to be an element within the motoring press who seem to think that there should be no rules on our roads or, at least, whatever rules do exist shouldn't apply to them. This is not a libertarian way of thinkng. Liberty does not mean the absence of rules. For starters, it would put the kibosh on most sports: including golf and football. Even rugby (though perhaps not ice hockey.) In a libertarian world there will be rules - even on roads.

The Clarkson’s of this world may well be right that we would be better off with fewer rules. The pity is that because Clarkson is so clearly a hedonist it is difficult to see that he says what he says for anything other than narrowly selfish reasons. As with so many others it's not a smaller state he seems to favour just one that favours him.

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I like trains. I loathe buses. This is because trains are a nice way to travel, and buses aren't. I also like cars, although I don't presently own one due to the state of my finances. I am not sure this says anything about my politics. I have met lots of libertarians who love trains - let's face it, I am one of them - and lots of socialists who like to drive fast, as well as most other combinations). I am in favour of building lots of new roads and lots of new railways, or more importantly getting rid of the absurd state of regulation and bureacracy that makes it hard for the private sector to do either of these things. I think this does say something about my politics, although this kind of statement does tend to lead to another of those "Compulsory purchase is good/bad/bad but necessary (choose one) arguments".

Posted by Michael Jennings on November 28, 2003

Quite right Patrick. Who knows what combination of transport arrangements would exist in a free society? If I were to be in charge of a Rothbardian territory there would be a renaissance of steam engines and Douglas DC3s. Duncanville and Croziertown may well be different. In the past week I have travelled on 1 mainline train, 2 aircraft, 3 taxis, 6 buses and 9 underground trains. My car has been parked outside the flat and I don’t feel any less libertarian.

Posted by David Farrer on November 28, 2003

Everyone seems to think that its a libertarian attitude to defend people's right to use private cars. What about people's right to be pedestrians? Surely in any "free" society, it must be the right of any person to walk or cycle without fear of hindrance or injury.

I hate the fact that while a hundred cars are allowed to take up four lanes in the high street, thousands of pedestrians are forced to huddle together on narrow pavements. Traffic lights remain green for far longer than pedestrian crossings show the green man. 99% of motorists brazenly brake the law every single time they get in their car, pedestrians and cyclists, the good guys, are the ones to suffer.

Why should pedestrians be forced to wait, then risk life and limb to cross a road because drivers are too selfish to so much as pause to let people cross? Why should 10 cars with one person in each be allowed to delay the progress of two buses carrying 200 people between them?

Why should people be penalised for choosing environmentally friendly forms of transport like walking and cycling while the selfish few make their life a dangerous misery?

Posted by Gordon on November 28, 2003

I think Gordon just answered your question.
Just count the scare/buzz words.

He wants to penalize automobile owners because they are "bad" "dangerous" and "selfish", pedestrians and bus riders are virtuous by comparison. To do that would only be "fair".

Unfortunately he is not the only one with that attitude. Right now I'm quite sure that if other modes of transportation (i.e. bus or rail) are provided and made feasible for everyone, eventually we will be compelled to use them and out automobiles will be taxed and regulated out of existence when those very same rails and busses are used to curtail our transportation choices. Do you really want your government telling you where you can go and when you can get there?

It sounds silly now, but thirty years ago so would being put in jail for shooting an intruder in your own home. That is now reality in The UK. I just don't trust my government enough to fund any more mass transportation projects that no one wants to ride. Sometimes I like to just grab the keys, "fill'er up" and hit the road with a CD of X "Under The Big Black Sun" cranked at maximum volume with no one else. Can't very well do that with a bus.

Posted by Jimbo on November 29, 2003

"and hit the road with a CD of X "Under The Big Black Sun" cranked at maximum volume with no one else. Can't very well do that with a bus."

Yeah yeah and then what? Head straight into the nearest traffic and sit there for two hours giving school kids asthma!

Pah :p

Posted by Gordon on December 5, 2003

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