George Will argues in his column that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's plan to make it easier for people to get around without cars is nuts, because everyone driving everywhere is the way God intended things to be:
LaHood, however, has been transformed. Indeed, about three bites into lunch, the T word lands with a thump: He says he has joined a “transformational” administration: “I think we can change people’s behavior.” Government “promoted driving” by building the Interstate Highway System—”you talk about changing behavior.” He says, “People are getting out of their cars, they are biking to work.” High-speed intercity rail, such as the proposed bullet train connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco, is “the wave of the future.” And then, predictably, comes the P word: Look, he says, at Portland, Ore. [...]
Where to start? Does LaHood really think Americans were not avid drivers before a government highway program “promoted” driving? ...
As Matthew Yglesias notes\, "LaHood didn’t say that Americans didn’t drive before we built the interstate system. He said that building the interstate system promoted driving. I don’t see how you could possibly deny this. Had we spent less money on highway construction and more on mass transit or intercity rail, then there would be less driving." But conservatives like Will are only aware of the hand of government when it promotes changes they find abhorrent, like building bike lanes and high-speed rail. When it abets their own lifestyles—by spending billions on highways, subsidizing the auto industry, and promoting suburban sprawl—well, that's just the natural order of things.
He also raises a rousing defense of long commutes and suburban sprawl:
Today's far-seeing and fastidious government, not content with designing the cars Americans drive to their homes and the lightbulbs they use in their homes (do you know that, come 2014, the incandescent lightbulb will be illegal?), wants to say where their homes can be. And to think that Republican Ray LaHood, Secretary of Behavior Modification, is an enthusiast for this, well, cozy relationship between Washington and Peoria, and everywhere else, too.
Conservatives, of course, actually adore "behavior modification" and social engineering—as long as it benefits the powerful and harms the weak, including that silly "environment" liberals want so badly to protect. (Will, it should be noted, does not believe in climate change, which, elsewhere in his column, he calls "another excuse for disparaging America's 'automobile culture.'") Yes, incandescent bulbs may one day go the way of lead paint, child labor, and smoking on airplanes. Does Will consider those "behavior modifications" to be violations of his basic freedoms as well?
Finally, a side note. According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center, nearly nine in ten Americans still consider their cars "indispensable." That's the bad news. The good news? In spite of this, we're driving those cars less and less.