“Car Culture”: Just Stop

"Fire that destroyed nearly 4,000 cars at RSW rental lot, causing $100M in damage ruled an accident"

From Center for a Stateless Society by Dawie Coetzee

In the course of his 2006 Rothbard Memorial Lecture, Rothbard’s “Left and Right”: Forty Years Later, Roderick Long creates a beautiful device to illustrate package-deal anti-concepts in the Randian sense:

“Suppose I were to invent a new word, zaxlebax, and define it as ‘a metallic sphere, like the Washington Monument.’ That’s the definition — ‘a metallic sphere, like the Washington Monument.’  In short, I build my ill-chosen example into the definition. Now some linguistic subgroup might start using the term zaxlebax as though it just meant ‘metallic sphere,’ or as though it just meant ‘something of the same kind as the Washington Monument.’ And that’s fine. But my definition incorporates both, and thus conceals the false assumption that the Washington Monument is a metallic sphere; any attempt to use the term zaxlebax, meaning what I mean by it, involves the user in this false assumption. That’s what Rand means by a package-deal term.”

Long goes on to characterize the term capitalism, as commonly used, indeed possibly as Ayn Rand herself used it, as such a package-deal term. I note with delight that zaxlebax has entered the vocabulary of certain anarchist regions. Kaile Hultner has described “fake news” as a zaxlebax. Today I wish to propose that car culture is a zaxlebax.

A search for the cliché “America’s love affair with the automobile” — including the quotes — turns up over 11 000 hits. The first of these traces the first use of that expression to a 1961 television show sponsored by the DuPont chemicals concern, then a major shareholder in General Motors who had every incentive to present the dominance of the automobile in urban mobility as a spontaneous, natural phenomenon. Likewise, online references to car culture abound, and the sense implicit in the vast majority of them is remarkably consistent. Yet I struggle to find as much as a single attempt at a definition of car culture, and could find none at all which adequately reflects that specific sense. If I had to attempt such a definition, the results would be distinctly zaxlebaxean: “popular enthusiasm for automobiles, resulting in excessive structural dependence on private vehicular mobility.”


Categories: Environment

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