- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Today is World Car-Free Day. Organizers say the purpose of the celebration is “to remind the world that we don’t have to accept our car-dominated society.” No one cares whether these hippies drive or not, but the danger is they don’t want anyone else to have a car either.

The automobile has long been a focus of complaint from left-wing activists who have never quite accepted the results of the industrial revolution. Cars are blamed for pollution, congestion, noise, accidents, and allowing people to live in suburbs instead of having to stay cheek-by-jowl in planned urban centers. Like most contrived holidays, World Car-Free Day is a feel-good exercise that allows earth muffins who say they care about the issue to pretend to do something about it.

The amount of sanctimonious energy generated could probably replace several government-subsidized wind farms. Naturally, high principle goes hand-in-glove with hypocrisy. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, burnished his green credentials and upped the ante by declaring “Car Free Week” in the Bay State. He was then spotted being chauffeured to work in the back of his gas-guzzling SUV, the poster-vehicle for materialistic excess. When confronted with his obvious lack of eco-awareness, the governor lamely explained that car-free week is a “great initiative for people who can make the most of it.” In other words, ditching four wheels makes sense for student activists who don’t have jobs, families or cars.

A look back at history reminds how automobiles have been the engine for so much progress. A short century ago, horses were used for personal transportation, haulage and construction - and these beasts were responsible for some very nasty pollution. For example, the 100,000 horses in New York City at the turn of the century produced 2.5 million pounds of manure per day, and 25,000 gallons of urine. Hippies might contend that this is OK because it is organic and biodegradable, but the sheer volume of dung was so great that one wag predicted that by the 1930s, it would rise to the level of the city’s third-story windows. Flies and stench came with the horses, along with noise, rotting carcasses and accidents. In those days, horse-related fatalities in cities were higher per capita than auto-related fatalities today.

As cities grew larger, the horse problem became more acute. Urban planners saw no way out - until free-market capitalism saved the day. The invention of the automobile relegated the horse-drawn carriage to a quaint novelty. Freedom, however, is the root of all evil to eco-conscious leftists. They blame the same capitalist system that gave us the auto industry for purported societal ills such as global warming, income inequality, dysfunctional government, corruption, war and bad vibes.

Radicals who rant about the tyranny of the automobile have it exactly backwards. Automobiles are an irreplaceable expression of American independence. When Henry Ford introduced the low-cost Model T in 1908, he gave millions access to an inexpensive, reliable means of motorized transportation. A 1924 ad said, “To own a Ford is to be free to venture into new and untried places. It is to answer every challenge of Nature, safely, surely and without fatigue.” Cars allow people to go where they want, when they want, in groups or all alone. They get people to work, to school and to the shopping mall. Automobiles are popular because they give us choices and flexibility. They do not alienate, they liberate. Cars are freedom - just ask any teenager.