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Columnist bemoans car use decline: “They are freedom machines”

Posted by on June 13th, 2008 at 12:40 pm

“No device is more in keeping with the American spirit than the automobile… they are freedome machines.”
–Terence P. Jeffrey, Editor-in-Chief of CNS News Service.

Terence P. Jeffrey, a columnist with the non-profit Cybercast News Service has penned an interesting article that calls Americans’ languishing love affair with the automobile a “worrisome sign for those who love liberty.”

With the mountain of positive, mainstream news stories about how people are going by bike in record numbers, I was wondering when we’d start to hear from someone with a pro-driving perspective.

Here are some excerpts from Jeffrey’s column:

“No device is more in keeping with the American spirit than the automobile. Privately owned cars and trucks allow us to go where we want, when want. They are freedom machines.

Still, some liberals would like to use government to force Americans out of their cars.

They believe in socialized transportation, not free-market transportation…”

He goes on to accuse the U.S. government of using various methods of forcing people out of their cars (including “artificially suppressing the oil supply”) and cites myriad stats pointing to a downward trend in car use brought on by high gas prices.

How can we solve this threat to our way of life? According to Jeffrey, “We should drill our own oil,” and,

“American entrepreneurs must create another fuel whose production the government cannot readily curtail, and that keeps Americans driving where they want to, when they want to, in privately owned cars.”

CNS News Service — and their parent company, the Media Research Center — is no Associated Press (read what SourceWatch has found out about them).

But even so, Jeffrey’s views are likely shared with a certain portion of the American populace and he does get his articles printed in major daily newspapers on occasion.

What I think Jeffrey misunderstands is that no one is “forcing” him (or anyone else) out of their cars. It’s simply that more people are beginning to realize that bikes, walking, and transit make more sense for certain types of trips (I drive mine for big road trips and other errands/times when a bike won’t do the trick).

Will his ideas gain any traction? Will an organized lobbying group start promoting the unmitigated use of private cars? Can technology solve the gas/Peak Oil situation? We’ll have to wait and see. One thing is for sure, declining rates of automobile use will continue to make certain people very uneasy.

In the meantime, I’ll find my freedom in the bike lane.

[Thanks to Elly Blue for the link!]

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56 Comments
  • Avatar
    Elly Blue June 13, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    This is priceless.

    I have a vision of a youtube short…a sonorous, upbeat male voice a la 1950s infomercial reading this text, while footage of traffic congestion, car crashes, and the fall of the Embarcadero freeway scroll across the screen…

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    Diogo June 13, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    I think that cars can, indeed, provide a lot of freedom. But that is not what causes the majority of people to drive these days – they (we) drive because we must!! So it~s the opposite, we became slaves of this shit!

    Just like guns can provide freedom in certains circunstances, or utterly destruction in others…

    Appropriatte technology is what we need!!

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    Rex June 13, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    \”In the meantime, I\’ll find my freedom in the bike lane.\”

    Word.

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    Jeff June 13, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    This guy is a buffoon. He clearly doesn\’t know the sense of freedom one feels riding a bike. And who exactly are these \”liberals\” that are \”forcing\” people out of their cars? Forcing? Does anyone know what he\’s talking about?

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    Russell June 13, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    There is the potential for technology to replace the internal combustion engine and allow people to continue to travel by automobile. Those technologies, however, are not going to suddenly appear and be put into major production any time soon.

    Drilling in ANWR and along the coasts will mitigate some of the rising gasoline prices, yet no one talks about the cost of setting up the drilling facilities, building new infrastructure to carry crude to refiners, the need to produce new refiners (we\’re already at peak output there), the cost of spills/contamination, etc. Secondly, no one really talks about how long these supplies will last, if ANWR\’s \’1002 area\’ has the MAXIMUM (5% probability) oil of 11.8 billion barrels of crude that will last the US (if it were our only source) 590 days (approximately).

    When people suggest that we need to drill for more domestic oil it really is putting a Band-Aid on a third degree burn. The little mitigation that domestic drilling would provide to fuel costs (after factoring in the initial costs to get the whole thing going) won\’t provide enough relief for the \”future techs\” to come out swinging hard. People will still seek ways of reducing their consumption.

    On one last note, bicycles are greater freedom machines. Now, I know I\’m preaching to the choir, but . . . We, as cyclists, have a few unique disadvantages over the car – we cannot travel long distances as quickly, we\’re \”not as safe without our metal coffin around us\” (I\’d argue this is because cars are on the road in the first place), and we face the challenges of weather. Yet as cyclists we – have the ability to go wherever we please, when we please; we\’re getting exercise which extends our lives; it\’s much easier to learn how to do your own bicycle maintenance, thus you\’re not a slave to the service station; we don\’t spend hours out of our day working to simply fuel our vehicles (unless you count the food we need anyways); etc.

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    Russell June 13, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Jeff – I think he\’s talking about that riot in D.C. when all the liberal Senators, Representatives, Congressional Aides, and liberal activist groups took to the street, stopped traffic, and forcible pulled every individual from their car and handed them a bike . . . Oh, wait, that didn\’t happen. Shucks.

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    Racer X June 13, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    I agree with him…we should do what we can to make driving a glorious recreational pursuit in the countryside …much as was done in the 1930s WPA with teh Blue Ridge Highway…vs. the 1950s Interstate Highway Act. As to balance what we are doing in teh cities.

    And like any courtesous visitor to a house…please check your car (shoes) at the city limits (door) when entering.

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    ayrescycling June 13, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    I guess that makes my old PX-10 a \’French Machine\’…..oh wait!

    I have to disagree with this guy, and I know not everyone will agree with ME, I don\’t mind if the Government is artificially supressing oil supply to raise gas prices, I have seen more people out biking and riding max in the last month than ever. I am out in Hillsboro and it is a very welcome sight to see rush hour traffic calmed down and more and more yellow in the bike lane.

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    bahueh June 13, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    yes, yes, its all a big governmental conspiracy…tin foil hat and all.

    let me guess, he\’s overweight and never travels without paying 4.00$/gallon..as a rule.

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    Mmann June 13, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    This is just part of the oil industry-driven machine that is using every available tactic – including appealing to \”freedom\” loving drivers who feel there American way of life is being threatened – towards one goal: drill ANWR. This is being sold as some kind of solution to our high prices but it doesn\’t take a genius to figure out it\’s purely profit driven greed. Expect more of the same in the coming years as the industry gets increasingly desperate for the last drops.

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    Mmann June 13, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    This is just part of the oil industry-driven machine that is using every available tactic – including appealing to \”freedom\” loving drivers who feel their American way of life is being threatened – towards one goal: drill ANWR. This is being sold as some kind of solution to our high prices but it doesn\’t take a genius to figure out it\’s purely profit driven greed. Expect more of the same in the coming years as the industry gets increasingly desperate for the last drops.

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    brewcaster June 13, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    Cocaine is a hell of a drug.

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    Greg June 13, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    We should take his advise and get the government out of transportation game. It won\’t take long for the largest government subsidized infrastructure project in the history of the earth to collapse from disrepair.

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    Tony H June 13, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    The essay in question is almost too precious to disturb. Almost.

    Freedom machine? For years I have observed these large metal symbols of rugged individualism languishing in parking lots next to building where said Rugged Individuals are toiling away to pay for their Freedom Machines. Yeah…go \”anywhere at anytime\”. As long as it\’s not during work hours, or during rush hour traffic…

    And more domestic drilling. Riiiiiight. The information I\’ve read isn\’t encouraging (for freedom machine people) at all. Certainly, there is some domestic oil that could be tapped. However, there\’s NOT an inexhaustible supply, and much of this oil would require enormous amounts of energy to extract in the first place. I know it\’s rude to bring this up, but if we do drill and extract domestic oil, what will we do when that oil is gone?

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    N.I.K. June 13, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Drilling in ANWR and along the coasts will mitigate some of the rising gasoline prices, yet no one talks about the cost of setting up the drilling facilities, building new infrastructure to carry crude to refiners, the need to produce new refiners (we\’re already at peak output there), the cost of spills/contamination, etc.

    Excellent point. If I can take that language and repurpose it as a talking point against every talk-radio lovin\’ whackjob who claims domestic drilling is the obvious solution, you can take the below phrase –

    When people suggest that we need to drill for more domestic oil it really is putting a Band-Aid on a third degree burn.

    – and rework it with my \”gangrenous limb\” version from the Obama thread. Remember, Russell: this oil thing isn\’t a third degree burn, it\’s a festering mess that just plain ain\’t gonna heal up.

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    m.t. hand June 13, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    Funny, i was just about to blog about there being nothing more liberating than riding a bike. When I get in my car and have to drive on a city street, I feel trapped.

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    BURR June 13, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    I think the author is getting his cues from the American Dream Coalition.

    http://www.americandreamcoalition.org/

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    Russell June 13, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    I was thinking about it as a third degree (full thickness if you want to be medically correct) burn due to the complexities of dealing with severe burn patients. Although gangrene is pretty difficult to treat as well and the point of it festering (I love that word) is well taken. Oh and feel free to use what I say, I want (accurate, ignore those that are inaccurate) talking points to be used and disseminated among the populace.

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    Metal Cowboy June 13, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Terence would make a surreal, highly entertaining dinner partner. Like breaking bread with that Uncle who, right before he gets up to make his toast at the wedding whispers, \”Wait til you hear this.\”

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    Rollie June 13, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    HAHAHA! That is hilarious! Thanks for posting that.

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    Joe June 13, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    driving makes you dumb! LOL
    drive less think more..

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    Jerrod June 13, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    When I owned a car 4 years ago, I found myself to be more of a slave than free. I\’ll let all of you figure out the reasons why.

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    Freedom Machine June 13, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Funny, I thought the \”American spirit\” had something to do with actually WORKING to get what you want, like pushing pedals instead of sitting on your arse taking a big ol\’ free ride on the back of millions of years\’ worth of accumulated fossil fuels and thousands of lil\’ dead Iraqi babies. I thought the \”American spirit\” had something to do with taking charge of your destiny instead of sitting sleepily inside a tedious metal box, stock still, while you wait for a clog made up of a hundred other lemmings ahead of you to dissolve.

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    Dave June 13, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    What bothers me the most about these types of people is not so much that they like to drive – that\’s just fine – and I agree that cars do give you some freedom that bikes don\’t (day trip to the coast for instance). What bothers me is this attitude that they deserve whatever they want and will do whatever it takes to make sure they can do whatever they want. The \”I\’m American, and therefore I have any rights I care to grant myself\” attitude.

    That and the complete thoughtlessness of what he wrote – he has no consciousness whatsoever of the issues that drilling the oil that exists in the US territory could have, and is obviously completely writing with an agenda.

    Maybe the government refuses to drill that oil partly for environmental considerations, and partly due to the cost and risk of setting up the operation, and maybe some people choose not to drive and to take public transit or ride bikes most of the time as a purely personal choice, completely separate from the price of oil.

    Also, he has no thought for lower-income populations who really can\’t afford to drive everywhere, even with usual gas prices, but with \”socialized\” transportation, as he so pointedly puts it, or cheap bicycles, they would be able to travel to work, school, etc as they needed.

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    a.O June 13, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    God Bless America. Pass the ammo. YEEEEEE HAW!!!!

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    Pete June 13, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    So I\’m a liberal now because I don\’t want my taxes to continue subsidizing automobile (ab)use?

    Alaska, here we come!

    Diogo, very good point.

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    rixtir June 13, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Before I read the rest of what Jeffrey has to say, I\’d like to assure him that this liberal would enjoy nothing more than to remove the socialized financing of his privately-owned transportation, and allow the free market to rein.

    Something tells me Jeffrey doesn\’t want that much free market, though… 🙂

    Now,back to reading…

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    tonyt June 13, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    For those who love liberty!

    Right.

    Yes, I like having a car. But the interesting thing is that my life is freer and freer the less I use it.

    Imagine that!

    And more money into the local economy and less wars for oil and . . .

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    bahueh June 13, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    I love the freedom I have to park my car in the driveway for 5-6 days a week…
    damn thing collects dust faster than I have time to wash it off…

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    KT June 13, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    I love the freedom of being able to drive to work when I have a chest cold– I do myself more harm than good riding with that kind of chest congestion.

    Plus, it\’s easier to haul 40 pounds of dog food home with a car… or 100 pounds of gear… or 4 other people and boxes of wine… you get the picture.

    All that aside, I think my bike gives me more freedom than my car– and I agree with Diogo #2!!!!!

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    Donald June 13, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Proof positive that Miller was right: The more you drive, the less intelligent you are.

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    Duncan June 13, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    I do like having a car- and having the ability to drive to the coast or Bend at will… but I also think that we should quit externalizing the cost of road mtc. I think that vhicle registration should be based on vehicle weight times milage with a studded tire surcharge, and I say that despite driving a fairly heavy car quite a bit.

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    Crash N. Burns June 13, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Yaaaawn… I guess somebody has to replace Limbaugh.

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    Pete June 13, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    My Mom (72 years old) had an interesting question the other day. Complaining that gas in Massachusetts was over $4 now, she asked \”when is it going to stop going up? Where\’s the ceiling??\”. I had to explain that gas is made from dead dinosaurs and we\’re just not manufacturing that many these days, and that we\’ve enabled the country with the highest population in the world to buy cars now, and that the dead dinosaurs are used for many, many things, including most packaging and the plastic bags we bring home from the grocery store.

    I think much of the older generations were used to more prosperous times and simply not taught long term cause and effect of their actions and consumptions. That may be the case with this writer (at the very least, plus he seems to mistrust \”liberals\”, whoever they are – me, I suppose).

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    Pete June 13, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    OK, this is totally off-topic, but we liberals should force Jeffrey out of his car and make him ride \”the safety bike\”:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=AdrAR2TuR7k

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    Carl B June 13, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    I\’m an American and as such I have the right to drive my car any time I please, which lately turns out to be less than once a week. I also have the right to ride my bike any time I please, which is several times a day. It\’s great to be an American. If any commie-pinko liberal tries to tell me I can\’t drive my car, I\’ll tell them to move to North Korea, where they can drive their shoes, if they are allowed to have any. If any mouth-breathing redneck conservative tries to tell me I can\’t ride my bike, I\’ll tell them to move to, uh, whatever they call Burma now, where the military government is what our Homeland Security aspires to be.

    Freedom doesn\’t come from machines.

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    East Portlander June 13, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    This is too easy.. People buy homes in an auto-dependent suburb and find freedom in the auto to escape their mundane lives.. funny.. i can walk to escape mine..

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    wsbob June 13, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    Poor Jefferey is stuck in the \’Wayback machine\’ (Sherman and Mr. Peabody , anyone?). There actually was a time when the personal automobile was a \’freedom machine\’, as he puts it. That was long ago; the post war years with the advent of the V-8 motor, super cheap gas, and the new interstate highway system.

    I\’m not sure cars were ever a \’freedom machine\’ in the cities. Find old pictures of L.A. and NYC in the 40\’s, and there\’s congestion just like today. At least in places like Montana, the population is low enough that the long expanses of relatively vacant road still exist. With the price of gas, and the long distances between points that that states citizens have become dependent upon, their freedom by way of car has taken a dramatic hit.

    For cities and suburbia, into the future, mass transit is going to become increasingly important, and single occupancy vehicles powered by gas, electric, hydrogen, or whatever, will increasingly go by the wayside. Maybe somehow it will happen, but currently it just doesn\’t make sense to me that numbers of cars can realistically grow with the population in a way that would meet the kind of usage applied to them today.

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    Eileen June 13, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    aiyiyi. I think every positive movement has a backlash. I get to hear these theories all the time at work and I would say, no, not gaining momentum. Some people are going to cry real loud just before they finally have to say goodbye to their cars.

    Every important change in the world has started with a few people who remained persistent even when everyone told them they were crazy and slowly but surely, their ideas took hold.

    \”Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, commited citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only that ever has.\” – Margaret Mead

    Change is coming. Hopefully before we all fry. But you know, if not, we\’re all going to die sooner or later.

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    djkenny June 13, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    my alternator or regulator went weak on my 92 GTI 2 months ago. I has sat twice as long as normal…

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    Mister Viddy June 14, 2008 at 6:21 am

    So wasn\’t it Eisenhower who pushed for the creation of the interstate highway system? Perhaps it was all a ruse so the shadow government could work behind the scenes to take vehicles away and enslave the population.

    Meh, the scary part is that there are some people who will buy into this guys rants.

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    Cøyøte June 14, 2008 at 8:38 am

    \”The model American puts in 1,600 hours to get 7,500 miles: less than five miles per hour. In countries deprived of a transportation industry, people manage to do the same, walking wherever they want to go, and they allocate only 3 to 8 per cent of their society\’s time budget to traffic instead of 28 per cent. What distinguishes the traffic in rich countries from the traffic in poor countries is not more mileage per hour of life-time for the majority, but more hours of compulsory consumption of high doses of energy, packaged and unequally distributed by the transportation industry.\”

    [Ivan Illich: \”Toward a History of Needs
    \” 1978]

    Sounds like a freedom machine to me…

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    Bdan June 14, 2008 at 9:46 am

    The free market is forcing people out of their cars, funny that a conservative type isn\’t excited about this. Whenever times get tough and the free market is a bit rough those who were its staunchest advocates come running to D.C. for government help. We have a low gas tax and consume far more gas then is warranted, now we are just seeing reality in the form of a price hike for a resource that has long been too cheap.

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    cyclonecross June 14, 2008 at 9:54 am

    How about we have an Automobile Freedom Day\” in addition to a Tax Freedom Day? Has anyone done done this?

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    jami June 14, 2008 at 10:20 am

    i wonder why guys like this don\’t mention the free market when they want the government to build them new freeways. (i suspect the republican think tanks don\’t pay them to have that opinion.)

    if the government has forced anything on us, it\’s cars. you can get around a city on a bike, but if you want to get up hawthorne or down 39th, get ready for dirty looks from all the freedom lovers driving from fred meyer to the bagdad.

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    Phil Hanson (aka Pedalphile) June 14, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    What planet is Jeffrey from? I\’m sure he\’s only recently arrived, but I hope his visit to Gaia is a short one and that he has a safe journey home. Perhaps he\’ll see fit to take a few cars with him.

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    Rich Wilson June 14, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    The gas price skyrocket has given me great peace in accepting people like this. It doesn\’t really matter what they rant. Change is coming weather they like it or not. I feel less pressure now to push for that change. Now I just sit back and smile.

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    Lance P June 14, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    Rich #47

    I agree. I get a tingle of pleasure deep inside every time the news stations says \”new record high gas\”.

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    Paul Souders June 15, 2008 at 8:33 am

    @Rich Wilson:

    Change is coming weather they like it or not.

    Amen, brother!

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    BURR June 15, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    it doesn\’t take a weatherman to know which way the wind blows

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    Eileen June 15, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    \”I agree. I get a tingle of pleasure deep inside every time the news stations says \”new record high gas\”.\”

    Lance, it\’s funny, but even though I actually have to commute by car to work, I feel the same way. I am carpooling more and finding it easier to find others willing to make the carpool thing work. I am hoping that soon there will be a commuter train going that direction. I also know that the gas prices force me to be more conscious about the use of my car – on weekends we make it a goal to not use it all. I look forward to paying $10 a gallon – a price I absolutely cannot afford – it would completely break my budget. But maybe if that happened, people would really stop driving. Public transport would really have to step up and the city streets would be freed up for bicycles. Imagine Powell as a bicycle freeway and no cars allowed!

    The year I lived in South America without a car, I never missed it. I walked and rode the bus and every once in a while took a taxi. Nobody (okay, very few people) had cars and so that was how life worked. You get used to it, and you don\’t miss it. We took vacations, we went all over town, we did everything we wanted. Since there was such a demand for busses, the busses went everywhere and frequently. I think anyone who\’s ever lived in, well, just about any other country, knows what I\’m talking about.

    The american\’s love affair with the car comes at great expense, not only to us but to the entire world. It is going to come to the same dismal end that all unhealthy relationships eventually come to – there will be a big nasty fight and then we\’ll finally break it off, everyone gets counseling and we all agree that we are happier after all.

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    Racer X June 15, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Yeah…too bad there was not a sensible transportation policy and fuel taxes before our current situation…oil and fuel products are about 50% of our trade deficit (not including car imports) and about 50% of our oil use is for private transportation…there seems to be a strong opportunity here.

    Perhaps our President will go back and \’jawbone\’ the Saudis for more cheap oil. It always seem to work well for him.

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    k. June 16, 2008 at 10:48 am

    It\’s funny how all these right wing crack pots love unfettered capitalism and the free market…until it somehow works against them. Someone needs to clue him in that it\’s in large part the unregulated energy markets, via commodities traders, that are driving up the price of oil and infringing on his \”liberty\”.

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    Fred June 17, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    This article is a really blatant example of a very common phenomenon. One of the most important ways that capitalism creates consumers is to equate consumption with a sense of self. Car=Freedom=American. It suits global capital very nicely to have people believe that freedom consists of nothing more than the right to buy whatever they want whenever they want it. If we believe that our possessions (e.g. cars) define who we are, the endless cancerous growth of the Market is assured with every new human. To me, that\’s why these propagandists always sound like adolescents: \”Nobody can tell me what I can and can\’t have!\” It\’s annoying in a 14 year old, it\’s pathological in a culture.
    It\’s time to grow up, America. Time to grow up.

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    Hillsons June 20, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    Jonathan it\’s great how you show both sides of every story.

    +1 Diogo and bahueh

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  • […] – despite the suffering felt by our “freedom machines” (aka cars), people in America are still FREE to be douche bags. No one is un-justly […]

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