*Maybe George Will should stay away from transportation columns

MAYBE GEORGE WILL SHOULD STAY AWAY FROM TRANSPORTATION COLUMNS…. Over the last couple of years, conservative columnist George Will has written a few columns about the automotive industry, all of which were painfully wrong. The errors of fact and judgment were so egregious, one wondered if Will did any research on his subject at all.

This week, he turns his attention to high-speed rail, and after reading the column, I’m beginning to think Will should just stay away from transportation-related columns altogether.

The column intends to explain “why liberals love trains.” If you’re thinking, “Because it’s a growing and innovative industry that creates American jobs, promotes economic development, and even helps the environment,” you’re apparently stuck in the world of facts and reason.

Will knows better.

So why is America’s “win the future” administration so fixated on railroads, a technology that was the future two centuries ago? Because progressivism’s aim is the modification of (other people’s) behavior.

Forever seeking Archimedean levers for prying the world in directions they prefer, progressives say they embrace high-speed rail for many reasons — to improve the climate, increase competitiveness, enhance national security, reduce congestion, and rationalize land use. The length of the list of reasons, and the flimsiness of each, points to this conclusion: the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.

To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends. Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they — unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted — are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.

Oh, I see. One of the nation’s most widely-read political columnists believes liberals support high-speed rail is part of some elaborate, freedom-crushing, Ayn-Rand-inspired conspiracy.

What’s more, as Paul Krugman notes, dismissing trains as a centuries-old technology is just silly: “[T]ry saying that after riding the Shanghai Maglev.”

And finally, Sarah Goodyear ties is all together:

First off, automobiles are not the only vehicles capable of encouraging “delusions of adequacy.” Bicycles, one might, argue, are a lot more capable of encouraging such delusions — fueled as they are entirely by the body of the “unscripted” individual. Which is perhaps why they seem to enrage people in cars, who have to worry about gasoline and the like, so very much.

Second, let’s talk about modern air travel. What mode of transport is more capable of sapping the human sense of possibility, more confining of the untrammeled human spirit? Perhaps before Will goes after high-speed rail, he should call for the defunding of the Federal Aviation Administration.