May 7, 2008

Scooters for Freedom!

I went to an urban planning conference many , many years ago where one engineer asserted that the best mass transit solution was the one consisting of personal vehicles: on demand, distributed, with maximum personal choice; just what we have now. The only thing that we are doing wrong is that our vehicles were too big... if only we all had smaller, single-passenger vehicles, then we could multiply the number of lanes... and stuff. Fewer cylinders per person, he said.

That's right.

The term ?democratic recession? was coined by Larry Diamond, a Stanford University political scientist, in his new book ?The Spirit of Democracy.? And the numbers tell the story. At the end of last year, Freedom House, which tracks democratic trends and elections around the globe, noted that 2007 was by far the worst year for freedom in the world since the end of the cold war. Almost four times as many states ? 38 ? declined in their freedom scores as improved ? 10.

What explains this? A big part of this reversal is being driven by the rise of petro-authoritarianism. I?ve long argued that the price of oil and the pace of freedom operate in an inverse correlation ? which I call: ?The First Law of Petro-Politics.? As the price of oil goes up, the pace of freedom goes down. As the price of oil goes down, the pace of freedom goes up.

Well then, it's clear, isn't it? If you want to pick up the pace of freedom, use less oil... let's have fewer cylinders per person. Voluntarily of course.

Scooters for freedom, people!

Now, I'm not averse to increasing the size of the cylinders, however. Life is for living, after all.

(Staying alive on a motorbike is another topic altogether. It's easier than it seems. Suffice to say that it can be done.)

Posted by Dennis at May 7, 2008 5:05 PM

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