Consider whether the transportation system in your town at any point infringes upon the liberties of some of its citizens? Is there an area, for instance, where cars impede or threaten walking or biking? Does a six-lane street without an intersection for over 2,000 feet infringe upon an elderly person’s ability to get across the street to her place of worship? Does an interstate running through the middle of a city hinder children from getting to school, or someone who cannot afford a car to get to work? Does a system that requires traveling long distances by car inhibit or even prohibit a specific population of Americans from being able to exercise their right to vote?
Consider the fact that a system requiring long-distance travel to work, shop, play, and generally live your life has been heavily subsidized. Had it been left to the free market, it would never have occurred because it is an inefficient and illogical system. The natural order would be to create communities where people could walk or bike to where they need to go and driving would be the exception rather than the rule.
Now consider The Harm Principle. It’s something that had a pretty big influence on our notion of liberty today. John Stuart Mill conceived of The Harm Principle, which basically said that we should be allowed to act and behave however we want until those actions and behaviors infringe or impede upon the freedoms of another person. In case you’re not aware of it, liberty is a pretty big deal in the U.S., and if we favor one person’s or group’s liberties over another, we call that unequal protection, something that our Constitution says we shouldn’t do.
So, if we not only allow a system that favors one person’s liberties over another’s, but in fact demand it through the infrastructure that we have created, and yet one of the fundamental principles of our collective national philosophy is that we do not favor one person’s liberties over another’s, then how do we justify this contradiction?
We don’t really. We just bury it. We make it seem as though the transportation system that we have developed is progress. We pretend that it has always been so, and so it shall always be. But that is a lie. It has not always been this way and it does not have to continue.
It must stop. It is an injustice and it is increasingly deadly. And it can be stopped by tearing down a backward system and moving forward on designs that are logical and fair. We must return to an order of development that is accessible and sustainable, while preserving and restoring the natural environment.