So George Will has labeled fellow Republican Ray Lahood “Secretary of Behavior Modification” because he said “I think we can change people’s behavior.” Poor George seems to think that this is another sign of progressive government intervention run amok rather than a simple observation that if people are given options some will change.
One of the more egregious fantasies of these modern day proponents of a “Better Society”? “(California seeks) to deny certain state aid to communities that do not adopt “smart growth” plans.” You mean like the National Minimum Drinking Age Act that President Reagan signed into law? Or perhaps No Child Left Behind, which is optional as long as your state doesn’t mind forgoing millions in Federal dollars. You mean like that George? Apparently it’s OK for the Federal Government to claim an “Interstate Commerce” interest in how old you are when you first get a taste of PBR or to bulldoze State’s rights to provide education.
But there’s even a very clear difference here. In this case a state is running its own affairs, deciding what is best for its residents. What more could a true Conservative desire? Maybe state autonomy isn’t enough? Perhaps California should be dissolved into City States?
“Do you know that, come 2014, the incandescent light bulb will be illegal?” he howls. Well, that’s not true. Incredibly you will still be allowed to possess an incandescent bulb after 2014, but the government is hoping to greatly reduce their common use. His statement did get me thinking. So I hit “the Google” and do you know that it’s illegal to not wear a seatbelt when driving? Do you know that it’s illegal for me to hire a 12-year-old to tuck-point my home? Do you know that it’s illegal to smoke pot for fun? Do you know that it’s illegal for me not to put my 9-month-old in a car seat? Oh the horrors of Big Government may never cease.
Will is right to point out that “For many generations…Americans by the scores of millions have been happily trading distance for space, living farther from their jobs in order to enjoy ample backyards and other aspects of low-density living.” This will not become illegal. However, it’s time that I no longer pay for the choices of others. So you would like to live in Ballwin and work in St. Louis? That’s just fine, here’s the bill for your cul-de-sac, widened arterial road and Interstate that gets you there.
If you permit me to put on my George Will-inspired tin-foil hat, I will propose that while Will states, “(the automobile) subverted (Liberals) agenda of expanding government—meaning their—supervision of other people’s lives. Drivers moving around where and when they please? Without government supervision? Depriving themselves and others of communitarian moments on mass transit? No good could come of this,” wouldn’t it be equally plausible that Conservatives seek to keep people from congregating, dividing individuals and making them less able to supervise their government? The masses communing with one another, learning from shared experience and being social? Clearly Will thinks nothing good can come of this.
Will also has a fairy-tale to sell you, “Once upon a time, government was supposed to defend the shores, deliver the mail and let people get on with their lives.” Maybe he’s referring a particular week in 1775? Then again, a national mail system was still sometime in the future.
The truth is that the auto-dependent infrastructure built over the past 70 years is the product of the greatest market distortion in our nation’s modern history. Billions upon billions of dollars in government subsidies and handouts have allowed individuals to live farther and farther from their place of work while avoiding the cost of that choice. The fact is that as a society we cannot afford to maintain the current auto-dependent infrastructure and its expansion will not solve congestion problems anymore than you can fight obesity by loosening your belt.
If Will believes it to be an egregious government intervention to provide incentives, in this case for individuals to consume less energy and waste fewer resources, perhaps he would like to lobby for an end to the Highway Trust Fund or maybe a moratorium on any federal infrastructure project in order to avoid the heavy hand of government intervention.
George Will has now been challenged to a debate by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).