Leaders or Lemmings?

3 11 2011

Ann Arbor’s proposed vehicle idling ban seems to have run out of gas, for now at least. That doesn’t mean it can’t still offer valuable insight into the complex, confusing minds of Those Who Think They Know Better.

It’s easy to simply chalk a senseless proposal like the idling ban up to a pro-green, anti-auto mentality that favors some fuzzy notion of an eco-friendly future over reality. But our nation is cursed with trueanti-internal combustion crusaders whose scheming could make an Ann Arbor City Council planning meeting look like amateur hour by comparison.

More reasoned discourse about the future of transportation

Take Seattle mayor Mike McGinn, who, according to a recent article in the City Journal, “promised to put Seattle on a ‘road diet’ in which car lanes on many busy multilane roads would be converted into bike lanes.” McGinn wants to impose heavy fees on auto registration and increase parking rates as well, all in an effort to advance a radical bicycling agenda that I previously had no idea even existed.

How is this related to Ann Arbor’s proposed idling ban? Simple: progressives are locked in a perpetual game of catch-up. When once city tries to limit its citizens dependence on autos, all the others must join in the fight. Whether the proposed regulation makes any sense or not is irrelevant; it only takes a few true-believing demagogues (like McGinn) to kick off a regulation-happy chain reaction.

Like Seattle, Ann Arbor is again planning on ratcheting up parking rates, and the city has already added on-road bike lanes that are largely unusable during the winter months. The idling ban would have been one more way to earn some anti-auto cred, albeit a tick behind the other cities that have already implemented such restrictions (quit slacking, Treetown).

That the control freaks are reduced to copying each others’ bad ideas isn’t really surprising – if they were capable of real innovation, they would be too busy contributing to our society to tell others how to live their lives.

In reality, the so-called leaders that keep devising ever more petty ways of intruding into our lives are, more often than not, not really leaders at all. Rather, they resemble the lemmings of popular conception: willing to mindlessly follow a foolhardy ideology over the cliff and into the abyss for the sake of conformity, consequences be damned.

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