The Grand View of Electric Cars

A piece by The Grand View inspired a rather long reply from me. So, I will post it here with links added:

It’s astounding, isn’t it? The power to end widespread assault by fumes is in our hands, and yet something is preventing the market from providing it.

Transportation has historically been a government domain, and we’re witnessing the result.

State intervention trashed mass transit in the mid-20th century by over-regulating, and then buying out, the plethora of profitable streetcar, subway, and bus systems. In New York, city government prevented the most developed transit market from raising its fares above 5 cents, until one by one the operators were forced to sell out to the MTA. (see Interborough Rapid Transit Company)

While laws have changed to reflect a recent consciousness of the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, motor vehicles putting worse particulates and gases in our lungs go on driving without mention in our legislatures. If government is to do anything, it’s defend against assault! Instead, they steal money from taxpayers to finance superhighway construction through our liveliest cities (that’s why Jane Jacobs moved to Toronto). I say it’s high time for a zero emissions standard, implemented at the State or Provincial level. Pollution is assault.

Finally, we have the federal-industrial complex. The Corn Lobby pushes ethanol. Detroit pushes oil-wars in the Middle East. Nuclear power fuelling battery-operated vehicles will collapse the emerging New Russian Empire and worldwide terrorist networks. But then the Neoconservatives will be without an enemy. Their prophet, Leo Strauss, told them never to let that happen.

What to do? Vote libertarian. Vote Ron Paul. Drive a velomobile. Start an electric car company. Join the battery industry. Raise awareness and get people talking. Thank you, The Grand View, for doing that last one.

Addendum: We needn’t wait for cars to become electric. Simply move into a downtown and take back the streets from cars. Work to pedestrianize your street. It’s happening all over Europe’s city centers. Pedestrianized city centers, private mass transit,¬†and the repeal of zoning will create untold wealth and vitality in our states. Is that an unsubstantiated claim? Well, quote me. I’ve seen it for myself all over Europe, and even in America when it’s been tried.

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Rename Queens

This is an aesthetic discussion. I don’t like the name Queens for the New York City Borough. I bet someone else agrees. Some may agree with me that the monarchical reference is anachronistic in the Capital of the Free World, but most will agree that the stigma attached to living in Queens will hamper efforts at redevelopment. As property prices in Brooklyn and Manhattan break records, Queens is next in line for gentrification. I strongly believe that aesthetic aspects of a place or product have a subtle psychological effect on purchasers. Queens needs a new name. Now, I’m going to propose a few names, but I’d also like to hear from you:

The Borough of…
Bloomingdale
Swansea
Gules (pronounced like jewels)

It’s a start. This should at least get you’re minds working. Someday, I’ll awaken to CP24 telling me that Queens is now Bloomingdale. Get working!

Neighborhood Maps & Meetups

My favorite thing to do nowadays is surf around TorontoNeighborhoods.net. I’m always clamoring for more widespread alternative maps. What I mean by that is maps that show more than roads, highways, and major attractions. This category includes neighborhood maps, pedestrian maps, and arcological maps.

I wrote a letter to Google asking if they would add a neighborhood compenent to their popular Google Maps service. It would overlay color-coded regions with their own histories and cultures. The maps could evolve organically as the neighborhoods changed — perhaps by submissions from city residents.

Neighborhoods are fascinating because they are apolitical designations. They are free-market cultural associations. Often, the best way to know if you’re in a particular neighborhood is to look at storefronts. If you pass Rosedale Cleaners, Rosedale Diner, and Rosedale Bakery, you’re probably in Rosedale. Those who are willing to map such an ‘unofficial’ but meaningful phenomenon have to have a healthy dose of the apolitical postmodern worldview. TorontoNeighborhoods.Net provides one of the most comperehensive examples of neighborhood cartography on the internet. It shows the different part of the amalgamated Toronto Megacity. Old Toronto has subsections: Uptown, Midtown, Downtown, East End, and West End. Each of these breaks down into individual neighborhoods with their own histories, present conditions, housing prices, schools, recreational opportunities and the like.

I highly recommend that any Toronto resident or urban design student take a gander at this no-charge work of art.

On another note pertinent to residents of The Good, Toronto Libertarians are having a Meetup:

What: The Toronto Libertarian Party August Meetup
When: Wednesday, August 8 at 7:00PM
Where: Fionn MacCools Bar & Grill
21 St. Clair Ave. W., Toronto
Toronto ON M4V 1K6
(416) 925-7827

You prolly don’t know the myriad ways in which every level of government screws you on a daily basis, even when you think they’re helping you. It’s worth finding out. If you can’t attend, buy a copy of Give Me A Break by John Stossel. It’s a refreshing and informative read from a former typical statist network-tv type who slowly started to understand that government and business often collude to defraud and steal from regular people. Now, Stossel is targetted by the same statist clique of which he was a member. Kudos to him for his bravery.

An Eye on the Gulf

Take a close look at the Persian Gulf. Which states are growing, and which are failing? What I’ve noticed is that the small city-states are outpacing the large nation-states in most regards. Kuwait, Bahrain, Doha, Abu Dhabi, and glistening Dubai have all managed to pursue quasi-free market policies and allow relatively open societies while neighbors such as Iran wallow in theocratic authoritarianism. Full disclosure: this discussion has to be couched in the reality that no government in the Middle East is close to ‘limited.’ The city-states praised herein practice extreme state capitalism. Of course, in this regard they are not that different than the self-righteous Western governments.

As we witness the liberalization, and corresponding economic miracle, of the Gulf city-states, a parallel can be drawn to the renaissance and the Italian city-states. Those advocates of modern political theory, which is built upon the ethno-linguistic nation-state, are constantly baffled that these states remain authoritarian or fail. They look at the American Federal state as an example of large-state success; I would argue that the US Fedgov persists, in spite of its size, because of the centuries of small-state tradition that led to it, as well as the theoretical reservation of power to fifty small states. If theorists could pull their heads out of the landscape as it looks right now, they would remember that the Western World fell apart once. The Near East World is where Europe was a millenium ago. The Italian city-states were the first bastions of freedom in a backward, and theocratically repressive, Europe.

I think we might be witnessing the same thing in the Gulf, the first stepping stone. Though Dubai and its brethren owe some element of their recent ‘success’ to government-manipulated oil money, that state interference is coupled with market reforms that are allowing real growth to move forward. They are able to do this because they are small and independent. Large states are too tempted by the game of interstate power projection. They worry about creating ‘spheres of influence,’ neighboring states that can be manipulated to suit the large states’ needs. Meanwhile, they always maintain themselves by forcing separatist regions to remain within the superstate. Modern political theory, espoused most prominently by the United Nations, encourages such coercive territoriality. States align with nations, the U.N. says, and nations are defined by those in power. It’s certainly a good way to maintain a large membership in your ‘international body’ when financing and participation are decided by those in power, but is it just? For all of the current world order’s talk of justice, human rights, self-government, and the like, is the tacit prohibition of secession severely hurting the most disenfranchised groups? Yes, I say, and the consequences are clear in the Gulf.

Iraq, Isrealestine, Turkey: all of these places are begging to dissolve into a multitude of self-governing mini-states. These states would allow the resolution of conflict because small states are not predicated on force as often as large states are, for a small state cannot build a large standing army and does not need an authoritarian government to keep itself together. Further, it provides more options to have more states. If we grant that governance is exceptional in its connection to territory, as opposed to other services, then having smaller states is the only way to create a semi-competitive market between states. The message is: behave, or your citizens and capital will leave. Globalization has put exactly that kind of pressure on every existing state, and they are liberalizing in return. As the primitive concepts of border control and customs become less popular, the desire to retain capital and citizens through positive encouragement will only increase.

Isrealestine, as I’ve taken to calling it, is nominally divided into two states. One is run by the Palestinian Authority, the other by the Government of Israel. Most diplomats dream of a two-state solution, which is fine except that it requires one of the states to be cleaved in half. Currently, that state is the Palestinian which is separated into the West Bank and Gaza. Recently, nature has taken its course, pre-empting in fact what I’m about to argue for in theory: Gaza and the West Bank are functioning as two independent states since Hamas took over Gaza. Okay, so that will leave us with a three-state solution, if the thick-headed internationalists ever break down and recognize Gaza as a state. But what about four states? Israel could spin off its desert south into a Free State of Eilat. Many may fret over defense of such small states, but any of the four could confederalize with each other to create a situation potentially much more defensible than currently exists (especially if the Jews and Muslims could get over their differences in the name of mutual protection).

Iraq is another prime example. While the US Fedgov tries desperately to hold together the Iraqi ‘nation,’ others have suggested breaking the state into its ethnic components. I think this will just excourage the notion that rights and liberties are reserved only for those of one’s own ethnicity. Instead, Iraq could be dissolved into its respective provinces, or another multi-state mix. I’d put money on the assertion that rebuilding would progress at a glorious rate if these mini-states were abandoned by the US military and left to their own devices.

Turkey is an example of a large state attempting to assimilate a renegade region. Large states always do this: see US Civil War. Turkey would carve into many natural states. The Kurds definely want out, but instead of making an ethno-nationalist Kurdistan which intimidates the region’s superstates, the Kurds could push for a few smaller states (perhaps including some sympathetic Turkish countryfolk, gasp).

Realpolitikers will read this essay and think that I’m hopelessly out of touch with the tribal realities of Middle Eastern life. That may be true, but if we truly want this region to civilize then we should study what will empower and teach them. Our own experience should tell us, as I certainly feel in the States and Canada, that the more distant and ‘super-‘ a government is, the less each individual feels he can make a difference. Mark my words, in an enlightened age the free states thrive, and smaller states, if they can keep their external defenses in order, are more able to maintain freedom. Rome was powerful, wealthy, and free as a small city-state, but it squandered its fruits as a large empire. As we look at ourselves and the new Gulf Tigers, let us learn this lesson once again, and adopt a tolerance for secession and self-government as part of all of our political agendas.