Cars and their Enemies

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Cars and Their Enemies Summary

In the July 1997 issue of Commentary, James Q. Wilson challenges the consensus among academia’s finest regarding the automobile in his bold article, Cars and Their Enemies. Directed towards the general public, his article discredits many of the supposed negatives of the automobile raised by experts, proves that the personal car is thriving and will continue to thrive because it meets individual preference over other means of transportation, as well as presents solutions to the social costs of cars. Wilson emphasizes that no matter what is said and done in eliminating the social costs of the automobile, experts are not going to stop campaigning against it.

Wilson begins his article with a hypothetical scenario in which the proposition for the mass production of the automobile is being raised today as a current issue. Within this fictional scenario, he explains that many aggressive predictions and complaints regarding the negative effects of cars on society would be made and that due to such strong opposition, the personal car would probably not be created. Wilson returns to this scenario later on in the article, explaining that people living in a carless nation would be forced to have small homes, located in large, highly dense cities where the streets are congested by pedestrians, trucks, and buses (Wilson 22). He also insists that travelling in such a country would be hard, and that when you did, the only places you would be able to travel to would be crowded areas which were able to support a nearby train stop (Wilson 22). Wilson insist that living in such a nation would be unpleasant, having many serious problems, unlike the trivial ones used by anti-car critics to discourage car usage now.


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...sts as they keep trying to get people out their cars in vain.

To mitigate the social costs, Wilson offers a variety of suggestions such as raising gasoline taxes, but argues that this will never happen in a nation as democratic as the United States, another concept critics need to grasp (Wilson 22). He names what he thinks are more realistic suggestions such as creating more bike pathways, banning cars from roads with capability of being pedestrian malls, and charging tolls at bridges that go into the city (Wilson 22). He insists that although the social costs are being reduced greatly as time goes on, it will not stop critics from attacking it.

Wilson concludes by explaining the reason the campaign against the car will never end, “critics dislike everything the car stands for and everything society constructs to serve the needs of its occupants” (Wilson 22).

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