October 8, 2015


What do the acolytes of the State want to ban this week? Which bootlace eyelet will they lubricate with eager spittle? Oh, the usual stuff. Fun. Your fun. Vox writer Dylan Matthews twittered his demands, and they’re quite ordinary — except for one new requirement. See if you can spot it.


Accompanying that fascistic cri de cœur to Ban All The Things is a sneak peak of one of their future replacements — the photos illustrating Lileks’ article featuring Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt and Anthony Foxx, Mr. Obama’s transportation secretary, and a self-driving car that looks like a Weeblemobile.

Lileks ponders how that concept will play in Peoria:

Would the ban be for cities only, or for everyone? Would rural North Dakotans have to trade in their pick-ups for dinky bugs, or be required to retrofit their old trusty Chevys for self-driving units? Oh, what a madcap movie someone could make about the gubmint man who has to go to Elk Groin, Mont., and tell the lads down at the garage that they can’t drive their trucks anymore. Let me give you a web address with information about the new laws, fellas, and you can see how it’s just win-win for everybody. Amused at first, the locals decide to humor the fellow, and show him all the quirky joys of small-town life, and he becomes enchanted by a free-spirited woman who raises horses and drives big trucks, and takes him for a wild midnight ride where speeds exceed the legal limit. He goes back to the regional office, a changed man, his heart full of newfound admiration for the ways of these independent people and their curious, outmoded, backwards attachment to “shifting” and “steering” and all those old folkways. He starts to write a report about how the ban shouldn’t be applied to these people, but then shrugs and realizes he has a job review coming up, so he sends the IRS a memo: “You might want to audit all these people.”

You might think that’s a lot to get out of a tweet, but it reminded me of something I saw in a BuzzFeed article about self-driving cars, and why they’re awesome. The author, Mat Honan, made a good case, and I was right with him until the end, when the mask slipped and the Angry Man — whose excess of certainties is balanced by his deficit of wisdom — came snarling out.

Cars are giant, inefficient, planet-and-people-killing death machines. Self-driving cars — especially if they are operated as fleets and you only use one when you need it, summoning it Uber-style — would mean we could have fewer vehicles per person, less traffic congestion, less pollution, far fewer vehicles produced per year (thus lowering the environmental impact of production), and, best of all, safer streets. The blind, people with epilepsy, quadriplegics, and all manner of others who today have difficulty ferrying themselves around as they go through the mundanities of an average day will be liberated. Eliminating the automobile’s need for a human pilot will be a positive thing for society.

So go f*** a tailpipe if you love cars so much. Your love for cars doesn’t supersede the lives of 1.2 million people who die in automobile accidents every year. It’s not more important than the energy savings we’ll get from not manufacturing 60 million or so vehicles every year that spend most of their time idle. Turned off. Parked.

Well, at least he waited until the end of piece before dropping the mask. That puts him one up on the author of the notorious 2007 Time magazine article on “The 50 Worst Cars in America,” who began by railing against Henry Ford’s original sin of perfecting the notion of the mass-produced automobile in the first place, leading inexorably to every woe of the past 100 years, including the Iraq War and worse.

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