Thursday, July 10, 2008

Car Crazy

On the minus side, the excessive use of private cars brings widespread congestion, choking pollution, serious accidents, parking mayhem, the concreting over of the countryside, an addiction to acquiring high powered status symbols and what E.J. Mishan in a telling book he first had published in 1967 showed were "diseconomies of scale". He pointed out that all the costs linked to private car usuage for policing, hospitalisation, road building and upkeep, licencing and other services are shown in economic statistics as if they were entirely positives towards the well-being of our society, when the end result often turns out to be counter-productive.

I am not denying that there are also plus sides to private car ownership, but the above type of factors need to enter our understandings. I for one have managed to spend an active life without ever owning a car nor knowing how to drive. Even for 18 years as an MP with a Constituency the size of Malta to represent, plus journeys back and forth to London and elsewhere, I managed mainly using public transport and taxis. I was, of course, grateful for lifts from my Agent and others. For no-one can detach themselves from the norms of the society around them. My wife (who also can't drive) and myself were grateful yesterday evening, for instance, for lifts to and from a local Labour Party meeting. Whilst the destruction of formerly tightly-knit mining, steel and manufacturing communities has presented people with new travel-to-work needs.

Additionally my own carbon footprint would have to take into account a good number of air miles - although I never had a private jet!

But when all is said and done, we do need to put the current media hype on behalf of the private motorist into some sort of perspective. A reduction in car miles and petrol consumption (along with a move to the use of smaller cars) can't all be a bad thing.

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