Dagny Taggart Wept - NYTimes.com:
the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.
This comes from an article by Paul Krugman Diminished Individualism Watch - NYTimes.com commenting on something he wrote earlier about what someone called George Will wrote here: Will: Why Liberals Love Trains - Newsweek. I have no idea who George Will and Paul Krugman are, and I came across this series via theMiss Eagle Daily, a digest of tweets from a fellow blogger I follow on Twitter.
I have a certain amount of sympathy for George Will's doubts about the usefulness of high-speed trains. The Gautrain is due to come into operation later this year, and it has been a pretty expensive exercise. It is supposed to provide high-speed connections between Johannesburg, Pretoria and the airport.
But I cannot help remembering an earlier high speed train attempt, the Metroblitz of the 1980s. It required an expensive upgrading of the existing line between Johannesburg and Pretoria -- the one via Germiston. But by 1995 the train had been abandoned, and the coaches were lying, forlorn, vandalised and abandoned in a siding at Koedoespoort.
This picture shows the interior of the vandalised coaches. But a couple of years later most of the bodywork had gone too.
We rods on the Metroblitz once, when we had just bought our present house, and had to visit lawyers in downtown Johannesburg to sign some transfer documents. It seemed easier to go by train than look for parking in Johannesburg. But to get the Metroblitz we had to take a train from Sportpark in Lyttelton to the centre of Pretoria, because the Metroblitz did not stop at Sportpark. It went non-stop from city centre to city centre. It took 45 minutes, as opposed to the hour-and-ahalf of the regular trains.
Perhaps the Gautrain will improve on that. At least it has intermediate stops, and in places that people actually want to go to.
So yes, I have my doubts about high-speed trains.
The real problem with George Will's article is not his doubts about the economic viability of high-speed trains; it is the ignorant ideological claptrap that surrounds it. As Klugman points out: Dagny Taggart Wept - NYTimes.com: "But anyway, it’s amazing to see Will — who is not a stupid man — embracing the sinister progressives-hate-your-freedom line, more or less right out of Atlas Shrugged; with the extra irony, of course, that John Galt’s significant other ran, well, a railroad."
And then there is Will's Orwellian doublespeak of the "war is peace and peace is war" variety, when he ascribe to liberals a desire to destroy individualism and promote collectivism. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of history would know that the rise of liberalism cannot be separated from the rise of individualism. Perhaps George Wills is not a stupid man, but if he expects people to buy this "wet is dry and dry is wet" argument, he is either remarkably ignorant, or expects his readers to be.